Analysis of the Mountain Plover Mating System Using Microsatellite Analysis

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A Mountain plover. Photo by Fritz Knopf, USGS.
A Mountain plover. Photo by Marcus Martin.

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.