Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 63, Issue 2, pp 251–260 | Cite as

Varying levels of female promiscuity in four Apodemus mice species

  • Josef Bryja
  • Hana Patzenhauerová
  • Tomáš Albrecht
  • Ladislav Mošanský
  • Michal Stanko
  • Pavel Stopka
Original Paper


Sexual selection in most vertebrates is based on the evolution of fitness optimization strategies such as multiple-male mating (MMM). Several ecological correlates of MMM have been identified in bird and fish populations; however, only few studies have documented the effects of environmental change on promiscuity in mammals. In this study, the 127 pregnant females from four central European and ecologically diverse species of field mice (genus Apodemus) were studied to assess the role of ecological factors that may have shaped the evolution of particular mating systems. MMM was found in all analyzed species: in Apodemus uralensis and Apodemus flavicollis, up to two males could be identified as the fathers of a particular litter, while three males sired 9.1% of analyzed litters of Apodemus sylvaticus and 20.6% of Apodemus agrarius. Furthermore, there were obvious differences between species in relative testes size and the proportion of multiple sired litters during those seasons when the opportunity for multiple mating was high. The species with the smallest testes and the least promiscuous was A. uralensis (only 43.5% of multiple sired litters), while the species with the biggest testes and the most promiscuous was A. agrarius (69.2%). MMM was significantly associated with higher litter size in A. flavicollis, and the probability of MMM strongly increased with season in A. agrarius and with abundance in A. uralensis. These results indicate that ecological factors are associated with MMM rates in Apodemus field mice and more research is needed to fully understand the evolution of mating strategies at different levels of biological resolution.


Mating systems Multiple paternity Wood mice Testis size Apodemus 



We thank M. Heroldová, E. Jánová, and Z. Řehák for their help in the field and H. C. Hauffe for very useful comments on the previous versions of the manuscript and for linguistic correction. The work was supported by the following projects: KONTAKT—Ministry of Education CR, project no. 140 (to JB, MS), Research Centre no. LC06073 (JB, TA), MSM 0021622416 (JB, HP), MSM 0021620828 (TA, PS), Czech Science Foundation 206/07/0779 (PS), and APVV-0108-06 (MS, LM). This work complies with all current laws governing research in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Josef Bryja
    • 1
    • 2
  • Hana Patzenhauerová
    • 1
    • 2
  • Tomáš Albrecht
    • 1
    • 3
  • Ladislav Mošanský
    • 4
  • Michal Stanko
    • 4
  • Pavel Stopka
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Population Biology, Institute of Vertebrate BiologyAcademy of Sciences of the Czech RepublicStudenecCzech Republic
  2. 2.Department of Botany and Zoology, Faculty of ScienceMasaryk UniversityBrnoCzech Republic
  3. 3.Biodiversity Research Group, Department of Zoology, Faculty of ScienceCharles UniversityPrague 2Czech Republic
  4. 4.Institute of ZoologySlovak Academy of SciencesKošiceSlovak Republic

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