Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 59, Issue 5, pp 597–605 | Cite as

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

  • A. Cohas
  • N. G. Yoccoz
  • A. Da Silva
  • B. Goossens
  • D. Allainé
Original Paper


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.


Constrained-female hypothesis Heterozygosity Mating system Microsatellite Relatedness Inbreeding Good genes 



We thank all students involved in the trapping of alpine marmots at La Sassière. We would also like to thank Joanna Setchell and Jos Milner for editing the English. We are grateful to Dan Blumstein and David Westneat for their constructive comments on earlier version of the manuscript. Thanks are finally extended to authorities of the Vanoise National Park for granting us permission to work in La Grande Sassière Nature Reserve. Financial support was received from CNRS (France) and the Région Rhônes-Alpes (XI plan Etat-Région). The experiments conducted comply with current French laws.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. Cohas
    • 1
  • N. G. Yoccoz
    • 2
  • A. Da Silva
    • 1
  • B. Goossens
    • 3
  • D. Allainé
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratoire Biométrie et Biologie Evolutive, UMR CNRS 5558Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1Villeurbanne cedexFrance
  2. 2.Institute of BiologyUniversity of TromsøTromsøNorway
  3. 3.Biodiversity and Ecological Processes GroupCardiff School of Biosciences, Cardiff UniversityCardiffUK

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