Evol Ecol Res 19: 529-546 (2018)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

Mother’s baby, father’s maybe:
the occurrence and frequency of multiple paternity in the European wild boar

Björn Müller1, Oliver Keuling2, Christian Glensk1 and Jörg Brün1

1Institute for Evolutionary Biology and Ecology, University of Bonn, Bonn, Germany and 2Institute for Terrestrial and Aquatic Wildlife Research, University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Foundation, Hannover, Germany

Correspondence: B. Müller, Institute for Evolutionary Biology and Ecology, University of Bonn, An der Immenburg 1, 53121 Bonn, Germany. email: bmueller@evolution.uni-bonn.de


Background: Multiple paternity (i.e. when the litter of a pregnant female is fertilized by more than one male) is common in a variety of animal taxa, including several ungulate species. It is generally believed that dominant males of European wild boar (Sus scrofa) monopolize several females, suggesting that multiple paternity is a rare phenomenon in this species. However, recent studies from different populations across Europe suggest that multiple paternity occurs more often in wild boar than had previously been assumed. However, previous studies were based on small sample sizes or a background of very strong hunting pressure on males.

Aim: Clarify the number and frequency of multiple paternities in European wild boar under moderate and balanced hunting conditions.

Method: We analysed eight highly polymorphic microsatellite markers in the embryonic and uterine tissues of 35 gestating female wild boars from different but nearby hunting grounds in Lower Saxony (Germany). Then, we visually reconstructed the putative paternal genotypes. We calculated the frequency of occurrence of multiple paternity using a variety of software packages.

Results: Almost 23% (8 of 35 the uteri) of the embryonic genotypes suggested at least two different sires. A minimum of 45 different fathers had to have been involved. In fact, due to hidden incidences where both parents carried the same alleles, maximum likelihood calculations suggested an even higher rate of multiple paternity.

Keywords: alternative reproductive tactics, European wild boar, microsatellites, multiple paternity, sexual conflict, Sus scrofa.

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