Family Relationships and Mating Systems

Science Center Objects

Family relationships and mating systems can be investigated and defined using genetic data. This information is potentially important for conservation and management as it may influence effective population size and levels of genetic diversity.

Family Relationships and Mating Systems - Current Research

Analysis of the Mountain Plover Mating System Using Microsatellite Analysis - Principal Investigator - Sara Oyler-McCance

Mountain Plovers have an uncommon parental-care system where males and females tend separate nests. In Montana, males arrive at breeding grounds first, set up territories, and display to attract a female. After mating and laying an initial set of eggs, a female mates with other males, providing eggs for them to incubate. Courtship activity between multiple males and females within a single breeding season has been documented several times but few copulations have been observed. In this study we are examining the prevalence of multiple paternity within male- and female-tended broods using DNA extracted from chicks and the tending adult. This research is in collaboration with Iowa State University.


Image: Female Broad-Tailed Hummingbird
A female broad-tailed hummingbird visiting a flower near the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory in Colorado. David Inouye, USGS, Public domain.

Investigation into Family Relationships Among Broad-tailed Hummingbirds Using Molecular Genetic Techniques - Principal Investigator - Sara Oyler-McCance

The Broad-tailed Hummingbird breeds at high elevation and has been studied for many years in Rocky Mountain National Park. Previous observations and circumstantial evidence led to the hypothesis that adult female Broad-tailed Hummingbirds remain with recently fledged young for weeks or longer after fledging and that some females captured and banded in close time proximity and then returning in later years to be captured again in close time proximity might be related (i.e., mother and daughter). To investigate this hypothesis, we are testing 37 sets of individuals. Within those sets, only five represented cases where individuals are related as full or half siblings.

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