Multiple Paternity and Breeding System in the Gopher Tortoise, Gopherus Polyphemus

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Little is known about the reproductive behaviors and the actual outcomes of mating attempts in the gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus). We examined the mating system and reproductive behaviors of a population of gopher tortoises in central Florida. Using microsatellite markers, we assigned fathers to the offspring of seven clutches and determined that multiple fathers were present in two of the seven clutches examined. We found that gopher tortoises exhibited a promiscuous mating system with larger males fertilizing the majority of clutches. The advantage of larger males over smaller males in fertilizing females may be a result of larger males winning access to females in aggressive bouts with other males or larger males may be more attractive to females. Clutches produced by larger females tended to be sired by a single male, whereas clutches of smaller females tended to be sired by multiple males.

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Journal of Heredity, v. 97, issue 2, p. 150-157