A new cheetah study by the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Zoological Society of London has found that many cheetah litters have more than one father. While promiscuity in the animal kingdom is generally a male thing, researchers for the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) have found that, in cheetah society, it’s the female with the wandering eye, as reported in a paper in the latest issue of Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
According to the study, researchers found that about 43 percent of cheetah litters with more than one cub were fathered by more than one male, revealing a mating system that deviates from those used by other carnivores, most of which consist of single or sibling males monopolizing many females.
“It seems that female cheetahs are highly promiscuous with no detectable mate fidelity between breeding seasons,” said Dr. Sarah Durant, a researcher with the Wildlife Conservation Society/Tanzania Cheetah Conservation Program and project leader. “In fact, we now know many of the fathers exist outside the park and study area. This is a finding which gives us a critical insight into cheetah ecology and one that merits inclusion into future conservation efforts for the species.”
The nine-year study, which was conducted in the Serengeti National Park of Tanzania, focused on determining the paternity of cheetahs through the use of fecal samples that were then subjected to genetic testing. By comparing individual genetic micro-satellites from 171 samples, researchers not only were able to determine if more than one father contributed to a litter, but also which of the known male cheetahs in the study area had sired cubs. Surprisingly, few known males had, with only 21.3 percent being assigned paternity, although not all males in the study area had been sampled. At least some of these missing fathers undoubtedly resided outside
Source:Wildlife Conservation Society