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Mol Ecol. 2006 Jun;15(7):1917-28.

Insights into the mating habits of the tiger salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum tigrinum) as revealed by genetic parentage analyses.

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Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907, USA.


Among urodeles, ambystomatid salamanders are particularly amenable to genetic parentage analyses because they are explosive aggregate breeders that typically have large progeny arrays. Such analyses can lead to direct inferences about otherwise cryptic aspects of salamander natural history, including the rate of multiple mating, individual reproductive success, and the spatial distribution of clutches. In 2002, we collected eastern tiger salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum tigrinum) egg masses (> 1000 embryos) from a approximately 80 m linear transect in Indiana, USA. Embryos were genotyped at four variable microsatellite loci and the resulting progeny array data were used to reconstruct multilocus genotypes of the parental dams and sires for each egg mass. UPGMA analysis of genetic distances among embryos resolved four instances of egg mass admixture, where two or more females had oviposited at exactly the same site resulting in the mixing of independent cohorts. In total, 41 discrete egg masses were available for parentage analyses. Twenty-three egg masses (56%) consisted exclusively of full-siblings (i.e. were singly sired) and 18 (44%) were multiply sired (mean 2.6 males/clutch). Parentage could be genetically assigned to one of 17 distinct parent pairs involving at least 15 females and 14 different males. Reproductive skew was evident among males who sired multiply sired clutches. Additional evidence of the effects of sexual selection on male reproductive success was apparent via significant positive correlations between male mating and reproductive success. Females frequently partitioned their clutches into multiple discrete egg masses that were separated from one another by as many as 43 m. Collectively, these data provide the first direct evidence for polygynandry in a wild population of tiger salamanders.

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