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Who's your daddy? Paternity testing reveals promiscuity and multiple paternity in the carnivorous marsupial Dasyurus maculatus (Marsupialia: Dasyuridae)

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Female promiscuity is common among mammals but its advantages, particularly for marsupials, remain unclear. Using microsatellite DNA from pouch young of known mothers, we identified the most likely fathers of 25 wild spotted-tailed quolls (Dasyurus maculatus) from six litters. We aimed to determine whether young within the same litter had different fathers, and whether breeding success of males was associated with large body mass (consistent with inter-male competition) or scrotal width (consistent with sperm competition). We also explored the possible influence of promiscuity on relatedness within litters. Finally, we used data on paternity and relatedness to make inferences regarding movement and dispersal.

Four litters were sired by more than one male, and three males sired offspring in more than one litter. Known fathers had higher body mass, but not scrotal width, than males of unknown paternity status, suggesting that males may compete for access to females. Sires were less related to dams than expected by chance, and litters with multiple paternity had lower relatedness than litters sired by a single male. © 2009 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2009, 96, 1–7.

Keywords: polyandry; quoll; sexual dimorphism; sexual selection; sperm competition

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Institute of Wildlife Research, School of Biological Sciences A08, University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia 2: School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, NSW 2052, Australia

Publication date: January 1, 2009

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