Male reproductive tactics to increase paternity in the polygynandrous Columbian ground squirrel (Urocitellus columbianus)
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In polyandrous and polygynandrous species where females mate with multiple partners, males are expected to maximize their fitness by exhibiting an array of reproductive behaviors to ensure fertilization success, such as competing for the best mating order within a mating sequence, optimizing their investment in copulation, and mate guarding. Though there is genetic evidence of a first-male precedence in siring success for many mammalian species, the causes of this effect are poorly understood. We studied influences on first-male precedence in Columbian ground squirrels (Urocitellus columbianus). We found that the time a male spent consorting and mate guarding declined with his mating order (both the highest for the first male to mate). Mate guarding by the first male significantly reduced, but did not exclude, the number of additional males a female accepted. Later mating males reduced the time spent consorting, suggesting a perceived decreased chance of fertilization success. Consortship and mate guarding durations were positively related to the male’s siring success and to each other, suggesting that males adjusted these behaviors strategically to increase their chances of fertilization success. Our results suggest that besides being the first male to consort, first-male sperm precedence is further enhanced through longer mating bouts and by suppressing the chances and/or efforts of later mating males.