Mating system characterizations have been hindered by difficulties in accurately assigning parentage to offspring. We investigated the relationship between social assemblages and mating relationships in a territorial harem polygynous mammal, the Gunnison's prairie dog, using a combination of behavioral and molecular analyses. We demonstrate multiple paternity and an extraordinarily high incidence of extraterritorial fertilizations (i.e., 61% of all progeny), in combination with the existence of female kin groups. On this basis, we conclude that social assemblages alone provide a poor description of the Gunnison's prairie dog mating system, and suggest several potential reasons for the maintenance of territoriality in this species.
Steven E. Travis, C. N. Slobodchikoff, Paul Kefan, Social assemblages and mating relationships in prairie dogs: a DNA fingerprint analysis, Behavioral Ecology, Volume 7, Issue 1, Spring 1996, Pages 95–100, https://doi.org/10.1093/beheco/7.1.95