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Mating Strategies in Relation to Sexually Selected Infanticide in a Non-Social Carnivore: the Brown Bear

Authors

  • Eva Bellemain,

    1. Department of Ecology and Natural Resource Management, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Ås, Norway
    2. Laboratoire d'Ecologie Alpine (LECA), Génomique des Populations et Biodiversité, CNRS UMR 5553, Université Joseph Fourier, Grenoble, France
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  • Jon E. Swenson,

    1. Department of Ecology and Natural Resource Management, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Ås, Norway
    2. Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, Trondheim, Norway
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  • Pierre Taberlet

    1. Laboratoire d'Ecologie Alpine (LECA), Génomique des Populations et Biodiversité, CNRS UMR 5553, Université Joseph Fourier, Grenoble, France
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Jon E. Swenson, Department of Ecology and Natural Resource Management, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Pb. 5003, NO-1432 Ås, Norway. E-mail: jon.swenson@umb.no

Abstract

Based on the sexually selected infanticide (SSI) hypothesis, infanticide can be an adaptive mating strategy for males, but this is has rarely been documented in non-social mammals. This phenomenon should not benefit females, so one would expect females to evolve mating counter strategies in order to protect their infants from infanticidal males. Cases of SSI are extremely difficult to document in the field, especially for non-social species. Using field observations and genetic methods, we describe mating strategies employed by both sexes of brown bears (Ursus arctos) in relation to SSI. We present evidence for the first time suggesting that infanticide is an adaptive male mating strategy in this non-social carnivore, as all requirements for SSI are fulfilled (1) infanticide shortens the time to the mother's next estrus, (2) the perpetrator is not the father of the killed infants, and (3) putative perpetrators sire the next litter. Moreover, all infanticide cases occurred during the mating season. We expected that primarily immigrant males were infanticidal, as in social species. However, we found that resident adult males commonly committed infanticide. Perhaps they recognize females they have mated with previously. Moreover, we used DNA-based parentage testing to demonstrate a minimum of 14.5% of multiple paternities (up to 28% for litters with at least three young). Female promiscuity to confuse paternity may be an adaptive counter strategy to avoid infanticide.

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