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Keywords:

  • colobine monkey;
  • extra-unit copulation;
  • microsatellite DNA;
  • paternity analysis;
  • polygamy

Abstract

This article reports the first genetic study of the mating system of the Sichuan snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus roxellana), an endemic and endangered species in China. The investigation was carried out in a population (WRT) in the Qinling Mountains using data from both field observation and paternity analysis through microsatellite DNA profiling. During a mating season, a male on an average copulated with 5.7 females. Approximately 18% of the females were observed to copulate with more than one male over the study period. The majority of copulations (94.5%) were initiated by females. Twenty-eight of 430 observed matings were extra-unit copulations. Eight polymorphic microsatellite loci were used for paternity analysis. The number of alleles at each locus ranged from 3 to 7 (mean=4.3). Observed heterozygosity ranged between 0.32 and 0.79. None of the loci showed significant deviation from Hardy–Weinberg equilibrium. Results from paternity exclusion showed that 12 of 21 (57.1%) immature individuals were sired by extra-unit males. Although the basic social unit of snub-nosed monkeys is consistent with a polygynous mating system, both field observation and genetic data suggests that their mating system is polygamous. Infanticide and inbreeding avoidance are the most likely explanations for the promiscuity of female snub-nosed monkeys. Am. J. Primatol. 72:25–32, 2010. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.