Parentage assignment and extra-group paternity in a cooperative breeder: the Seychelles warbler (Acrocephalus sechellensis)

Authors


D. Richardson. Fax: + 46 46 2224716; E-mail:David.Richardson@zooekol.lu.se

Abstract

We describe the development and initial application of a semiautomated parentage testing system in the Seychelles warbler (Acrocephalus sechellensis). This system used fluorescently labelled primers for 14 polymorphic microsatellite loci in two multiplex loading groups to genotype efficiently over 96% of the warbler population on Cousin island. When used in conjunction with the program cervus, this system provided sufficient power to assign maternity and paternity within the Seychelles warbler, despite the complications associated with its cooperative breeding system and a relatively low level of genetic variation. Parentage analyses showed that subordinate ‘helper’ females as well as the dominant ‘primary’ females laid eggs in communal nests, indicating that the Seychelles warbler has an intermediate level of female reproductive skew, in between the alternative extremes of helper-at-the-nest and joint nesting systems. Forty-four per cent of helpers bred successfully, accounting for 15% of all offspring. Forty per cent of young resulted from extra-group paternity.

Ancillary