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Molecular determination of paternity in a natural population of the multiply mating polygynous lizard Eulamprus heatwolei


J. Scott Keogh. Fax: 612-6125-5573; Email:


We studied the mating system of the southern water skink, Eulamprus heatwolei, during spring and summer (encompassing the breeding season) in a population in southeastern Australia. We examined potential attributes that might influence the mating system and male reproductive success including home range size, physical proximity of adults and body size, and then genotyped all mothers, offspring and potential sires. Home range overlap of both sexes was extensive, with adult females sharing the greatest amount of space with each other and adult males the least amount of space with each other. However, not all adults hold home ranges. We classified approximately one quarter of adult males as home range holders and the rest as ‘floaters’. Adult females occupy home ranges more than males, with approximately three-quarters classified as home range holders. Home range ownership is not correlated with body size for either sex, however, male body size is positively correlated with the number of adult female home ranges that his home range overlaps and adult male home ranges are larger than those of females. We used microsatellite genotyping to assign paternities to 55 offspring from 17 litters and then compared this data with our home range and behavioural observations. This species displays extreme levels of multiple paternity given the small mean clutch size of three. Multiple paternity was confirmed in 11 (64.7%) of 17 clutches but three other clutches (for a total of 82.4%) also may display multiple paternity. A total of 30 offspring from 12 litters were assigned to 10 of the 32 genotyped adult males from our study site. Of these 10 adult males, half were home range holders. Five complete clutches and a total of 25 out of the 55 offspring could not be positively assigned to any male surveyed as part of the study and were attributed to floater males or resident males adjacent to our study site that had not been genotyped. While sample sizes are small, neither male home range ownership nor body size is significantly correlated with the number of paternities a male obtained. Our study suggests a polygynous mating system for this species.

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