Date of Graduation

Winter 12-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Scott Nunes

Second Advisor

Jennifer Dever

Third Advisor

Mary Jane Niles


I investigated 1) multiple paternity in Belding’s ground squirrels (Urocitellus beldingi) and 2) social partner preferences in juvenile U. beldingi. Prior work with blood allozymes demonstrated multiple paternity in U. beldingi litters. I evaluated paternity using microsatellite DNA analysis, which is more accurate than examining blood allozymes. My results indicate that multiple paternity in U. beldingi is more extensive than previously shown, occurring in about 90% of litters with more than one juvenile, and averaging 2.95 fathers in multiply sired litters. I also evaluated the hypothesis that play and other social behavior promotes bonding among juvenile female U. beldingi. All male U. beldingi emigrate from the natal area before reproducing, whereas most females remain in their natal areas throughout their lives and act cooperatively with close female relatives. Thus, it may be important for young females to establish bonds with sisters, and especially full sisters since kin selection favors cooperation with full sisters over half-sisters. However, my data did not support this hypothesis. Juvenile females demonstrated no preference for interacting with full versus half-sisters in play or other social behaviors. By contrast, juvenile male U. beldingi played and affiliated with full brothers for longer durations than they did with half-brothers. This result suggests that social behavior based on relatedness is important for juvenile male U. beldingi; however, how preferential interaction with full brothers might be important is not yet clear.