Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program

Conservation Biology


Biological Sciences

Major Professor

Pechmann, Joseph

Second Advisor

Gibbons, J. Whitfield

Third Advisor

Howard, Jerome

Fourth Advisor

Johnson, Steven

Fifth Advisor

Glenn, Travis


In this dissertation, I report new information that is necessary for future mating system studies in a little studied species, the marbled salamander (Ambystoma opacum). I studied female mating behavior, sexual selection, and the consequences of polyandry for individual females and salamander populations. I also compared the performance of several statistical approaches for analyzing genetic mating system data. The first chapter summarizes the characteristics of several novel microsatellite DNA loci as well as cross-amplified loci for marbled salamanders and mole salamanders that may be used for future studies. In the second chapter, I report estimates of sire number for 13 marbled salamander clutches based on microsatellite data from 32 hatchlings per clutch. Females mated with as many as three different males as indicated by conservative techniques. Less than half of females mated with multiple males. Based on comparative analyses, I recommend the parental reconstruction approach with the computer program GERUD for assessing multiple paternity. The third chapter describes an experiment designed to study sexual selection. As expected, in breeding mesocosms, the potential for sexual selection was much higher for males than for females. Size was unrelated to variance in male reproductive fitness. Only opportunity for selection and Morisita’s index conformed to theoretical expectations of the relationship between operational sex ratio and the potential for sexual selection among males. Because opportunity for selection has intuitive links to formal sexual selection theory, I recommend its continued use. In the fourth chapter, I compared polyandrous and monandrous females to explore the potential fitness consequences of multimale mating. No fitness measure at the egg or hatchling stage (clutch size, hatching success, hatchling size, etc.) differed between the two types of clutches. Size of metamorphs was not different, but polyandrous clutches had significantly higher survival to metamorphosis. In the fifth chapter, I analyzed effects of increased polyandry and male availability on genetic diversity, effective population size (Ne), and fitness of experimental populations. Although no analyses were significant, some effects were moderate to high in size. Ne was higher when estimated from hatchlings than with metamorphs.


The University of New Orleans and its agents retain the non-exclusive license to archive and make accessible this dissertation or thesis in whole or in part in all forms of media, now or hereafter known. The author retains all other ownership rights to the copyright of the thesis or dissertation.