Alpha-male paternity in elephant seals
- Cite this article as:
- Rus Hoelzel, A., Le Boeuf, B., Reiter, J. et al. Behav Ecol Sociobiol (1999) 46: 298. doi:10.1007/s002650050623
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The aim of this study was to assess paternity of males that dominated mating in harems at northern (Mirounga angustirostris) and southern (M. leonina) elephant seal rookeries using DNA fingerprinting and microsatellite DNA analysis. Southern alpha males had greater reproductive success than most northern alphas at similar-sized harems. Comparison of the relatedness between pups within harems also suggested that fewer males achieved matings in the southern elephant seal population. This was consistent with behavioral observations that suggest greater competition for mates in northern elephant seal harems. Reproductive success was consistent with estimates of mating success in some cases, but lower than expected for some northern elephant seal alpha males. A lower reproductive success than predicted from mating behavior may arise from a variety of factors including sperm competition, male sperm depletion from frequent mating, or reduced fertility. The alternatives are discussed in the context of environmental and historical factors.