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Multiyear mating fidelity in Alligator

Press release:

Paper itself:
III, R.M. ELSEY and T.C. GLENN. 2009. Multiyear multiple paternity and mate
fidelity in the American alligator, Alligator mississippiensis. Molecular
Ecology Early View 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2009.04373.x


We examined multiple paternity during eight breeding events within a 10-year
period (1995-2005) for a total of 114 wild American alligator nests in
Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge in south-west Louisiana. Our goals included
examining (i) within population variation in multiple paternity among years,
(ii) variation in multiple paternity in individual females and (iii) the
potential for mate fidelity. To accomplish this, in the current study, eggs
were sampled from 92 nests over 6 years and analysed along with 22 nests
from a previous 2-year study. Genotypes at five microsatellite loci were
generated for 1802 alligator hatchlings. Multiple paternity was found in 51%
of clutches and paternal contributions to these clutches were highly skewed.
Rates of multiple paternity varied widely among years and were consistently
higher in the current study than previously reported for the same
population. Larger females have larger clutches, but are not more likely to
have multiply sired nests. However, small females are unlikely to have
clutches with more than two sires. For 10 females, nests from multiple years
were examined. Seven (70%) of these females exhibited long-term mate
fidelity, with one female mating with the same male in 1997, 2002 and 2005.
Five females exhibiting partial mate fidelity (71%) had at least one
multiple paternity nest and thus mated with the same male, but not
exclusively. These patterns of mate fidelity suggest a potential role for
mate choice in alligators.

Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
Email: tholtz@umd.edu   Phone: 301-405-4084
Office: Centreville 1216                        
Senior Lecturer, Vertebrate Paleontology
Dept. of Geology, University of Maryland
Fax: 301-314-9661               

Faculty Director, Earth, Life & Time Program, College Park Scholars
Faculty Director, Science & Global Change Program, College Park Scholars
Fax: 301-314-9843

Mailing Address:        Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
                        Department of Geology
                        Building 237, Room 1117
                        University of Maryland
                        College Park, MD 20742 USA