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Multiple Paternity and Similar Variance in Reproductive Success of Male and Female Wood Mice (Apodemus sylvaticus) Housed in an Enclosure


Gabriele Gerlach, Fak. Biologie, Universität Konstanz, Postfach 5560 M657, D–78457 Konstanz, Germany. E-mail:


The mating system and variance in individual reproductive success in wood mice (Apodemus sylvaticus) were analysed genetically and using observational studies within a large cage system in an outdoor enclosure. Four experimental groups contained four males and four females, each individually marked with a transponder (small computer chips injected under the skin) allowing individual detection of animals underground or within nest boxes without disturbance. The probability of paternity was analysed by comparing frequencies of cohabitation of males and females. In addition, DNA microsatellite analysis revealed reproductive success of each individual. Multiple paternity was found in 85% of all litters, which were sired by up to all four males. Males with a greater body mass, possibly indicative of a higher rank, sired more offspring than those with lower body mass. Interestingly, variance in the reproductive success of males and females did not differ. There was no indication that paternity could be assessed by the time males resided with a female shortly before she became pregnant. Our results indicate wood mice probably have a promiscuous mating system.