Skates (Rajidae) are characterized by slow growth rate, low fecundity, and late maturity and are thus considered to be vulnerable to exploitation. Although understanding mating systems and behavior are important for long-term conservation and fisheries management, this aspect of life history is poorly understood in skates. Using 5 highly polymorphic microsatellite loci, we analyzed egg clutches collected from 4 female Raja clavata captured in the wild to test for multiple paternity. Using the reconstructed multilocus genotypes method to explain the progeny genotype array, we showed that all 4 clutches were sired by a minimum of 4¿6 fathers and, thus, female thornback rays are polyandrous. Whether polyandry in R. clavata is natural or a consequence of overexploitation remains uncertain. This is the first report of multiple paternity in a rajiform species and any oviparous elasmobranch.
- british waters
- nurse shark