Preliminary evidence suggests extra-pair mating in the endangered echo parakeet, Psittacula eques
Parrots are generally considered monogamous, forming strict pairs when breeding. Echo parakeets are unusual in that, although traditional breeding pairs occur, there are also multi-male breeding groups. This raises questions about the potential for extra-pair copulations. Genotype data were obtained from the dominant male and female in eight breeding groups (including three with profiles of attendant auxiliary males) and their 36 offspring. A further 34 offspring were available from eight breeding groups where profiles were available for a single parent. This study utilized four microsatellite genetic markers, originally developed for the African grey parrot. Parentage testing was undertaken using genotype comparisons with the dominant pair within the breeding group as well as auxiliary males where available. Although four markers were insufficient to provide conclusive evidence they do suggest that extra-pair copulation occurs in this species. The echo parakeet is classified as endangered (<500 birds) and understanding its mating system would be valuable in its future conservation.
Key words: Echo parakeet, Psittacula eques, extra-pair copulation, microsatellites.