, Volume 59, Issue 5, pp 597-605
Date: 20 Dec 2005

Extra-pair paternity in the monogamous alpine marmot (Marmota marmota ): the roles of social setting and female mate choice

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Extra-pair paternity (EPP) can be influenced by both social setting and female mate choice. If evidence suggests that females try to obtain extra-pair copulations (EPCs) in order to gain genetic benefits when mated to a homozygous and/or to a related male, females may not be able to choose freely among extra-pair mates (EPMs) as the social mate may constrain female access to EPMs. In this study, we investigated, first, how EPP depended on social setting and specifically on the number of subordinate males in the family group in a highly social and monogamous mammal, the alpine marmot. Second, we investigated how EPP depended on female mate choice for genetic benefits measured as male mate-heterozygosity and within-pair relatedness. Our results reveal, first, that EPP depended on the social setting, increasing with the number of subordinate males. Second, EPPs were related to relatedness between mates. Third, EPMs were found to be more heterozygous than within-pair males. Thus, social setting may constrain female choice by limiting opportunities for EPC. However, after accounting for social confounding factors, female choice for genetic benefits may be a mechanism driving EPP in monogamous species.