Multiple paternity in three wild populations of Eastern Massasauga (Sistrurus catenatus)

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Herpetological Conservation and Biology


Multiple paternity is widespread among animals. Within snakes, multiple paternity has been well-documented with the exception of the family Elapidae. However, variation in the frequency of multiple paternity among populations is poorly documented and warrants further investigation. Here, we provide evidence for multiple paternity in three wild populations of the Eastern Massasauga (Sistrurus catenatus). We documented multiple paternity in six of 12 Pennsylvania litters, five of 12 Michigan litters, and two of two Illinois litters. Female body size did not influence the likelihood of multiple paternity. However, an increase in female size correlated with increased litter size. Including this study, multiple paternity is now documented in 21 snake species belonging to 15 genera and four families. These results have implications for the captive management and conservation of this endangered rattlesnake. Specifically, captive breeding programs, such as the Eastern Massasauga Species Survival Plan (SSP®), might consider providing opportunities for multiple paternity.

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