Reproduction, Fertility and Development Reproduction, Fertility and Development Society
Vertebrate reproductive science and technology
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Dominance, body size and internal relatedness influence male reproductive success in eastern grey kangaroos (Macropus giganteus)

Emily J. Miller A C D , Mark D. B. Eldridge B , Desmond W. Cooper A and Catherine A. Herbert A C
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, The University of New South Wales, Kensington, NSW 2052, Australia.

B Molecular Biology, Australian Museum, 6 College Street, Sydney, NSW 2010, Australia.

C Present address: Faculty of Veterinary Science, The University of Sydney, Camperdown, NSW 2006, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email: emily.miller@sydney.edu.au

Reproduction, Fertility and Development 22(3) 539-549 https://doi.org/10.1071/RD09061
Submitted: 17 March 2009  Accepted: 21 September 2009   Published: 15 February 2010

Abstract

Knowledge of the determinants of reproductive success is essential for understanding the adaptive significance of particular traits. The present study examined whether particular behavioural, morphological, physiological or genetic traits were correlated with male dominance and reproductive success using three semi-free-ranging captive populations (n = 98) of the eastern grey kangaroo (Macropus giganteus). The morphological traits measured included bodyweight, head, forearm, tail, pes and leg length, forearm and bicep circumference, and testis size. Blood samples were collected to determine serum testosterone concentrations. All individuals were typed for 10 microsatellite loci and paternity determined for each pouch young. To determine the influence of relatedness and genetic diversity on male reproductive success, internal relatedness, standardised heterozygosity and mean d2 were calculated. Dominant males sired a significantly higher proportion of offspring than smaller, lower-ranked males and had higher testosterone concentrations. Males that sired offspring were significantly heavier and had larger body size. Sires were significantly more heterozygous and genetically dissimilar to breeding females than non-sires. Despite the wealth of knowledge on the social organisation of kangaroos, this is the first study to assign parentage and male reproductive success using molecular evidence.

Additional keywords: dominance hierarchy, genetic diversity, male–male competition, sire.


Acknowledgements

This research was funded by an ARC Linkage Grant (LP0560344) and forms part of the Koala and Kangaroo Contraception Program. Special thanks to James Cook and Jan Nedved for field assistance, Celine Frère and David Warton for statistical advice, Waratah Park Earth Sanctuary, Australia Walkabout Wildlife Sanctuary, Bill Amos and Karina Acevedo-Whitehouse for the IR macro, Emily Bolitho and Graeme Coulson, and Cameron Wood and Margaret Wilkinson at the Royal North Shore Hospital.


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