A microsatellite perspective on the reproductive success of subordinate male honey badgers, Mellivora capensis
The dominance hierarchy system of male honey badgers, Mellivora capensis, does not appear to determine reproductive success in the species as subordinate males are frequently seen to gain brief access to receptive females. To establish whether these interactions lead to fertilization, five microsatellite loci were used to infer paternity in a honey badger population from the Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park. In total, 26 individuals comprising 10 cubs, eight known mothers and eight potential fathers were analysed. Exclusion analysis and a likelihood-based approach identified the dominant male in the study population as the most likely father of 50% of the cubs (≥80% likelihood confidence). The remaining five cubs were most likely fathered by four different subordinate males (≥80% likelihood confidence). The results suggest that the brief mating opportunities afforded to subordinate males lead to fertilization, and hence that the dominance hierarchy system of the honey badger is not strong enough to exclude sneak fertilizations.