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, 81 (4), 876-83

Inbreeding Avoidance Mechanisms: Dispersal Dynamics in Cooperatively Breeding Southern Pied Babblers


Inbreeding Avoidance Mechanisms: Dispersal Dynamics in Cooperatively Breeding Southern Pied Babblers

Martha J Nelson-Flower et al. J Anim Ecol.


1. Breeding with kin can reduce individual fitness through the deleterious effects of inbreeding depression. Inbreeding avoidance mechanisms are expected to have developed in most species, and especially in cooperatively breeding species where individuals may delay dispersal until long after sexual maturity. Such potential mechanisms include sex-biased dispersal and avoidance of kin known through associative learning. 2. The investigation of inbreeding avoidance through dispersal dynamics can be enhanced by combining fine-scale population genetic structure data with detailed behavioural observations of wild populations. 3. We investigate possible inbreeding avoidance in a wild population of cooperatively breeding southern pied babblers (Turdoides bicolor). A combination of genetic, geographic and observational data is used to examine fine-scale genetic structure, dispersal (including sex-biased dispersal) and inheritance of dominance in cooperatively breeding groups. 4. Unusually, sex-bias in dispersal distance does not occur. Rather, individuals appear to avoid inbreeding through two routes. First, through dispersal itself: although both males and females disperse locally, they move outside the range within which genetically similar individuals are usually found, going twice as far from natal groups as from non-natal groups. Second, through avoidance of familiar group members as mates: individuals inherit a dominant position in the natal group only when an unrelated breeding partner is present. 5. This study uses spatial genetic analyses to investigate inbreeding avoidance mechanisms in a cooperative breeder and shows that individuals of both sexes can avoid inbreeding through a dispersal distance mechanism. While it appears that dispersal allows most individuals to move beyond the range of closely related kin, matings may still occur between distant kin. Nevertheless, any costs of breeding with a distant relative may be outweighed by the benefits of local dispersal and the immense fitness gains available from attaining a breeding position.

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