Paternity exclusion by DNA fingerprinting, and mate guarding in the hooded seal Cystophora cristata

Authors


  • *Department of Zoology, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EJ, UK. Tel. 0223 336610; fax 0223 336676; E-mail: SBM12@PHOENIX.CAMBRIDCE.AC.UK

  • This work was a first foray into molecular biology by two behavioural ecologists. Sue McRae conducted the laboratory work as part of a Masters degree, and is now a PhD student in Zoology at Cambridge, UK. She continues to venture into the world of DNA fingerprinting to investigate avian breeding strategies while a visiting researcher in the lab of Terry Burke (Zoology, Leicester), Kit Kovacs is Assistant Professor of Biology (Waterloo), and specializes in pinniped mating systems. Students ion her group continue to employ genetic techniques in their work with facilities being generously provided by molecular geneticist, Jack Pasternak (Biology, Waterloo).

*Department of Zoology, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EJ, UK. Tel. 0223 336610; fax 0223 336676; E-mail: SBM12@PHOENIX.CAMBRIDCE.AC.UK

Abstract

Hooded seal Cystophora cristata trios consist of an adult female, her pup, and an attending adult male. Using DNA fingerprinting, we excluded the possibility that the attending males within hooded seal trios were the fathers of the pups, proving that these hooded seals did not remain paired from one breeding season to the next. Behavioural observations of the trios after capture and release revealed that male hooded seals displace one another in attending nursing females. Mate guarding appears to be the preferred mating strategy available to male hooded seals given intense competition for females, a very brief nursing period, and oestrus occuring soon after weaning, but its effectiveness remains unclear.

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