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Keywords:

  • chimpanzees;
  • inbreeding;
  • mating strategies;
  • microsatellites;
  • noninvasive sampling;
  • paternity

Abstract

The relative success of chimpanzee male mating strategies, the role of male dominance rank and the success of inbreeding avoidance behaviour can only be assessed when paternities are known. We report the probable paternities of 14 chimpanzees included in a long-term behavioural study of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) at Gombe National Park, Tanzania. DNA samples were collected noninvasively from shed hair and faeces and genotyped using 13–16 microsatellite loci characterized in humans. All 14 offspring could be assigned to fathers within the community. While there is a positive relationship between male rank and reproductive success, we demonstrate that a range of male mating strategies (possessiveness, opportunistic mating and consortships) can lead to paternity across all male ranks. Several adult females were at risk of breeding with close male relatives. Most successfully avoided close inbreeding but in one case a high-ranking male in the community mated with his mother and produced an offspring. In contrast to recent data on chimpanzees (P. t. verus) from the Taï forest, Côte d’Ivoire, no evidence of extra-group paternity was observed in our study. Reanalysis of Taï data using a likelihood approach casts doubt on the occurrence of extra-group paternity in that community as well.