Molecular Analysis of Paternity Shows Promiscuous Mating in Female Humpback Whales (Megaptera novaeangliae, Borowski)
It is widely assumed that the mating system of the humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae, is similar to that of most mammals in that it represents some form of polygyny or promiscuity, but this cannot be tested without observations of copulation or data on paternity of offspring. Microsatellite DNA markers were used to examine the paternity of calves born to individually identified mature female humpback whales from the Gulf of Maine. Skin biopsies were obtained from three females, and several (range: three to five) of their known offspring. Multiple paternity of offspring, indicated by the presence of at least three different paternal alleles, was evident in all three females at either three or four of the six microsatellite loci surveyed. Such promiscuous mating is expected given current knowledge of the social ecology of this species. It is also consistent with resightings of individually identified female humpbacks with different male associates during two or more breeding seasons.
Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B
- Pub Date:
- January 1997