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Swift Fox Symposium

Using Microsatellites to Determine Parentage in Kit Foxes

Katherine Ralls1, Robert C. Fleischer1, and Patrick J. White2. 1National Zoological Park, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. 20008. 2California Army National Guard, Camp Roberts, CA 93451.

Microsatellites are highly variable single-locus nuclear genetic markers useful for determining relationships among individuals. We are developing microsatellites for kit foxes by screening potentially useful microsatellites designed for domestic dogs. To date, we have scored seven microsatellites in a small sample of foxes from our California field site. Two microsatellites were monomorphic and the remaining five contained two to four alleles each. Our radiotelemetry data revealed several unusual episodes in which various members of two adjacent fox social groups, a pair and a trio consisting of two males and a female, shared the same den from one to 10 days. Our current microsatellite data are consistent with the hypotheses that the younger male in the trio and the female in the pair are both offspring of the older male and female in the trio. However, more microsatellites will be needed to achieve adequate statistical power to evaluate these hypotheses.

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