Differences in reproductive success between laboratory and wild-derived golden hamsters (Mesocricetus auratus) as a consequence of inbreeding
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All laboratory golden hamsters (Mesocricetus auratus) originated from a sibling pairing back in 1930. Due to this extreme founder event, domestic golden hamsters are presumed to be one of the most bottlenecked animal populations. Nevertheless, domestic hamsters show no obvious signs of inbreeding depression in commonly used breeding stocks. To explore the existence of potentially masked inbreeding effects, we compared the reproductive success of laboratory (lab) and wild-derived (wild) golden hamsters. We allowed oestrus females to mate consecutively with lab and wild males. The resulting offspring was genotyped using microsatellites to assess paternity. Finally, we compared male reproductive success to genetic variability, sexual behaviour and different sperm characteristics. Both hamster strains exhibited the expected large difference in genetic diversity (H wild =0.712±0.062 vs H lab =0.007±0.007. The reproductive success of wild males dramatically exceeded that of lab males (87% of pups were sired by wild males). Sexual behaviour of wild and lab males only varied in the number of long intromissions (intromissions without ejaculation at the end of the mating). No significant differences were observed in relation to mounting, ejaculation and intromission. There were also no apparent differences in sperm motility, velocity and density or testis histology between wild and lab hamsters. We conclude that the reduced reproductive success of lab males represents a hidden inbreeding effect, although its precise physiological cause remains unclear. These results provide first evidence for a major fitness disadvantage in captive golden hamsters.
KeywordsSperm competition Reproductive success Inbreeding depression Genetic variability Golden hamster
We thank Annett Poenicke for performing the sperm tests and the team of Dr. Michael Wilhelm from Mediquant, Halle, Germany for the assistance with the sperm velocity measures. We also thank Kerstin Waegner for her technical assistance and Samantha Larimer for being our English critic. We maintained animals and conducted all procedures in agreement with the Animal rights certificate (No. 203h-42502/2-514 MLU Hal1, granted by the federal state of Saxony-Anhalt, Germany).
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