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Paternity and male mating strategies of a ground squirrel (Ictidomys parvidens) with an extended mating season

Schwanz, L.E., Sherwin, W.B., Ognenovska, K. and Lacey, E.A. (2016) Paternity and male mating strategies of a ground squirrel (Ictidomys parvidens) with an extended mating season. Journal of Mammalogy, 97 (2). pp. 576-588.

Link to Published Version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jmammal/gyv204
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Abstract

Animal mating systems are driven by the temporal and spatial distribution of sexually receptive females. In mammals, ground-dwelling squirrels represent an ideal clade for testing predictions regarding the effects of these parameters on male reproductive strategies. While the majority of ground squirrel species have a short, highly synchronous annual breeding season that occurs immediately after females emerge from hibernation, the Mexican or Rio Grande ground squirrel (Ictidomys parvidens) differs markedly in having an extended mating season (2 months) and a long delay between emergence from hibernation and female receptivity (1–2 months). Both traits are expected to favor polygyny by increasing the chances that a male can secure matings with multiple females (e.g., females that come into estrus on different days). To test this prediction, we used microsatellite markers to characterize the mating system of a population of Rio Grande ground squirrels from Carlsbad, New Mexico. Our analyses indicated a high frequency of multiple paternity of litters in this population. Paternity was not related to spatial overlap between known mothers and assigned fathers, suggesting that territory defense is unlikely to be an effective male reproductive strategy in the study population. Dominance interactions among males were frequent, with heavier males typically winning dyadic interactions. Surprisingly, however, males with lower dominance scores appeared to have higher reproductive success, as did males that were active over a greater extent of the study site. Collectively, these results suggest that the mating system of the Rio Grande ground squirrel is best described as scramble competition polygyny, with the primary male reproductive strategy consisting of searching for estrous females. Similar patterns of male–male competition have been reported for a few other ground squirrel species, providing potentially important opportunities for comparative studies of the factors favoring this form of male reproductive strategy.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Copyright: © 2016 American Society of Mammalogists
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/31025
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