Genetic parentage studies can provide detailed insights into the mating system dynamics of wild populations, including the prevalence and patterns of multiple paternity. Multiple paternity is assumed to be common among turtles, though its prevalence varies widely between species and populations. Several important groups remain to be investigated, including the family Chelidae, which dominate the freshwater turtle fauna of the Southern Hemisphere. We used seven polymorphic microsatellite markers to investigate the presence of multiple fathers within clutches from the white-throated snapping turtle (Elseya albagula), an Australian species of conservation concern. We uncovered a high incidence of multiple paternity, with 83% of clutches showing evidence of multiple fathers and up to three males contributing to single clutches. We confirm a largely promiscuous mating system for this species in the Burnett River, Queensland, although a lone incidence of single paternity indicates it is not the only strategy employed. These data provide the first example of multiple paternity in the Chelidae and extend our knowledge of the taxonomic breadth of multiple paternity in turtles of the Southern Hemisphere.
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Vol. 60 • No. 6