Australian Journal of Zoology Australian Journal of Zoology Society
Evolutionary, molecular and comparative zoology
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Mating system and local dispersal patterns of an endangered potoroid, the northern bettong (Bettongia tropica)

L. C. Pope A D , K. Vernes B C , A. W. Goldizen A and C. N. Johnson B
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A School of Biological Science, University of Queensland, St Lucia, Qld 4072, Australia.

B School of Tropical Biology, James Cook University, Townsville, Qld 4811, Australia.

C Department of Ecosystem Management, University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email: l.pope@uq.edu.au

Australian Journal of Zoology 60(4) 278-287 https://doi.org/10.1071/ZO12071
Submitted: 26 July 2012  Accepted: 27 November 2012   Published: 7 January 2013

Abstract

The northern bettong (Bettongia tropica) (Potoroidae), is an endangered macropod with a restricted distribution. We combined radio-tracking and trapping data with microsatellite genotypes to infer the mating system and local dispersal patterns of this species, and discuss their relevance to translocations. We defined the mating system as ‘overlap promiscuity’ (sensu Wittenberger 1979), though we cannot rule out serial monogamy. We found significant effects of proximity (average distance between parents = 190 m) and male weight, but not size, on the likelihood of paternity, suggesting that closer, heavier males have greater mating success. The average distance between putative pairs of relatives suggested that most dispersal occurred over short distances, with the distance between ‘related’ females significantly lower than that between related males (0.9 km versus 1.3 km). A spatial autocorrelation analysis showed high female relatedness across distances of up to 435 m, equivalent to half an average home range width. Conversely, male pairs had low relatedness across 0 to 870 m. These results suggested that female young often settle next to their mother, while males avoid nesting within their father’s home range. Both limited natal and ‘mating’ dispersal may have contributed to the strong genetic structure previously reported for this species.

Additional keywords: homomorphic, marsupial, overlap promiscuity, paternity, sex-biased dispersal.


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