Confirmation of low genetic diversity and multiple breeding females in a social group of Eurasian badgers from microsatellite and field data.
Domingo-Roura X., Macdonald DW., Roy MS., Marmi J., Terradas J., Woodroffe R., Burke T., Wayne RK.
The Eurasian badger (Meles meles) is a facultatively social carnivore that shows only rudimentary co-operative behaviour and a poorly defined social hierarchy. Behavioural evidence and limited genetic data have suggested that more than one female may breed in a social group. We combine pregnancy detection by ultrasound and microsatellite locus scores from a well-studied badger population from Wytham Woods, Oxfordshire, UK, to demonstrate that multiple females reproduce within a social group. We found that at least three of seven potential mothers reproduced in a group that contained 11 reproductive age females and nine offspring. Twelve primers showed variability across the species range and only five of these were variable in Wytham. The microsatellites showed a reduced repeat number, a significantly higher number of nonperfect repeats, and moderate heterozygosity levels in Wytham. The high frequency of imperfect repeats and demographic phenomena might be responsible for the reduced levels of variability observed in the badger.