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The use of molecular techniques for the assessment of familial relationships among social species of mammals has become relatively commonplace. However, some species represent poor candidates for such studies due to naturally low levels of genetic diversity, leading to unacceptably large standard errors associated with estimates of relatedness. Here, we report on a preliminary study of genetic diversity within two populations of a social species of ground squirrel, Gunnison's prairie dog (Cynomys gunnisoni) using DNA fingerprinting. We observed low levels of diversity in the form of large mean coefficients of genetic similarity among individuals occupying the same population. Overall similarity, determined from...
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...