Mate choice, reproductive success and inbreeding in white rhinos

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Authors Petra Kretzschmar, Hailie Auld, Peter Boag, Udo Gansloßer, Candace Scott, Peter John Van Coeverden de Groot, Alexandre Courtiol
Journal/Conference Name Evolutionary Applications
Paper Category
Paper Abstract Improving our sparse knowledge of the mating and reproductive behaviour of white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum Burchell, 1817) is essential for the effective conservation of this iconic species. By combining morphological, physiological and habitat data with paternity assignments of 104 known mother–offspring pairs collected over a period of 13 years, we provide the most comprehensive analysis of the mating system in this species. We show that while the overall mating system was promiscuous, and both males and females produced more offspring when mating with several partners, half of all females with multiple offspring were monogamous. Additionally, we find that mating and reproductive success varied significantly among territorial males in two independent sets of males. In females, however, variation in the mating and the reproductive success was not larger than expected by random demographic fluctuations. Horn size, testosterone metabolite concentration, territory size, habitat openness and the volume of preferred food within the territory did not seem to influence male mating or reproductive success. Moreover, there was no sign of inbreeding avoidance females tended to mate more frequently with closely related males, and one daughter produced a progeny with her father. The lack of inbreeding avoidance, in combination with the skew in male reproductive success, the partial monogamy in females and the territorial-based mating system, jeopardizes the already low genetic variation in the species. Considering that the majority of populations are restricted to fenced reserves and private farms, we recommend taking preventive measures that aim to reduce inbreeding in white rhinoceros.
Date of publication 2019
Code Programming Language R
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