Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 65, Issue 4, pp 695–706 | Cite as

Male reproductive tactics to increase paternity in the polygynandrous Columbian ground squirrel (Urocitellus columbianus)

  • Shirley RavehEmail author
  • Dik Heg
  • Vincent A. Viblanc
  • David W. Coltman
  • Jamieson C. Gorrell
  • F. Stephen Dobson
  • Adele Balmer
  • Peter Neuhaus
Original Paper


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.


Mating order Multiple mating Mate guarding Paternity Male reproductive success Columbian ground squirrels 



We thank for help in the field E. Emery, C. Grossen, D. Karlen, C. Heiniger, N. Tonetti, K. Bieri, M. Berger, C. Deleglise, N. Brunner, M. Binggeli, and the M.Sc. students S. Röösli, B. M. Fairbanks, and A. Skiebiel. Thanks to E. Kubanek who assisted with genotyping. C. Saraux and R. Bergmüller helped with statistical analyses. R. Bshary, B. König, F. Trillmich, S. G. Kenyon, and J. E. Lane provided insightful comments on earlier drafts of this manuscript. The study was funded by a Swiss National Science Foundation grant to P. Neuhaus (SNF 3100AO-109816). D. Heg was supported by SNF grant 3100A0-108473, J.C. Gorrell by an Alberta Conservation Association Biodiversity grant, and F. S. Dobson by a US National Science Foundation research grant (DEB-0089473). The research was conducted under animal use protocols from the Biosciences Animal Care Committee, University of Alberta; the Life and Environmental Sciences Animal Resource Center, University of Calgary; and the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee at Auburn University. The Institute of Biogeosciences (University of Calgary) provided housing and laboratory facilities at the R. B. Miller Field Station during the field season; we thank Station Manager J. Buchanan-Mappin, Institute Director E. Johnson, and camp responsible K. Ruckstuhl for their support.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shirley Raveh
    • 1
    • 8
    Email author
  • Dik Heg
    • 2
  • Vincent A. Viblanc
    • 3
  • David W. Coltman
    • 4
  • Jamieson C. Gorrell
    • 4
  • F. Stephen Dobson
    • 5
    • 6
  • Adele Balmer
    • 6
  • Peter Neuhaus
    • 1
    • 7
  1. 1.Department of Eco-Ethology, Institute of BiologyUniversity of NeuchâtelNeuchâtelSwitzerland
  2. 2.Department of Behavioural EcologyUniversity of BernHinterkappelenSwitzerland
  3. 3.Départment Ecologie, Physiologie et EthologieIPHC, UMR 7178, CNRS-UdSStrasbourg Cedex 02France
  4. 4.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  5. 5.Centre d’Ecologie Fonctionnelle et EvolutiveCentre National de la Recherche Scientifique—UMR 5175Montpellier Cedex 5France
  6. 6.Department of Biological SciencesAuburn UniversityAuburnUSA
  7. 7.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada
  8. 8.Konrad Lorenz Institute for EthologyAustrian Academy of SciencesViennaAustria

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