Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

J.M. Turbeville


Organisms capable of self-fertilization typically exhibit two evolutionary syndromes uniting high inbreeding depression with low levels of selfing, or low inbreeding depression and high levels of selfing. This study tests for inbreeding depression in an apparent self-compatible, hermaphroditic marine nemertean worm, Prosorhochmus americanus. Fecundity and timing to first reproduction were assessed in isolated and paired worms. Isolated worms produced significantly more offspring than paired worms and did not show inbreeding avoidance. The selfing rate of natural populations was evaluated using species-specific microsatellites and is consistent with preferential selfing (mean: 0.801), though some outcrossing appears to take place. Population genetic structure indicates populations are disjunct and characterized by low levels of gene flow. Our results reveal P. americanus exhibits an interesting suite of life-history traits, uniting high dispersal potential through self-fertilization and high fecundity, with the lack of a dispersive larval stage and low levels of gene flow.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

August 2013

Included in

Biology Commons