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Premating behavioral tactics of Columbian ground squirrels

Anna P. Nesterova, Shirley Raveh, Theodore G. Manno, David W. Coltman, F. Stephen Dobson and Paul T. Stapp
Journal of Mammalogy
Vol. 92, No. 4 (August 2011), pp. 861-870
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23259886
Page Count: 10
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Abstract

In polygynous and polygynandrous mating systems males possess a variety of behavioral tactics that increase their access to reproductive females. In addition to overt combat or defending resources that attract mates, males use premating tactics that provide them with subsequent opportunities to copulate with receptive females. For Columbian ground squirrels, Urocitellus columbianus, we report that co-occupation of a burrow system by a reproductive male and a female on the night before the female exhibits diurnal estrus is an example of such a tactic. Our hypothesis was that nocturnal underground association results in successful consortships and therefore constitutes a mating tactic that is complementary to other mating behaviors exhibited during a female's estrus. Under this hypothesis appropriate predictions are that: males co-occupying a burrow system with a female at night should mate first with that female; males co-occupying a burrow system with a female overnight should sire more of her offspring than her subsequent mates; and the reproductive success of males co-occupying a burrow system with females should be higher than the reproductive success of mates that do not. To test our predictions we used a combination of field observations on nocturnal underground consortships (NUCs) and microsatellite DNA analyses of paternity. Males copulated with females during NUCs, as evidenced by inseminations. These males sired more offspring than males that did not participate in NUCs. Males ≥3 years old participated in more NUCs than sexually mature 2-year-old males. Our results supported the hypothesis that entrance into NUCs with a female before she exhibits estrus was a premating tactic that increased male reproductive success when exhibited in concert with other mating tactics such as territorial defense.

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