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Conspecific Brood Parasitism in the White-faced Ibis Plegadis chihi (Aves: Pelecaniformes) Revealed by Microsatellites' Based Kinship-Reconstruction


  • Conflicts of interest: None.

Correspondence to: Carolina Isabel Miño, Departamento de Genética e Evolução, Universidade Federal de São Carlos, Rodovia Washington Luís km 235 SP-310, São Carlos, São Paulo 15365-905, Brazil.



The white-faced ibis Plegadis chihi Vieillot, 1817 (Pelecaniformes: Threskiornithidae) is a socially monogamous colonially breeding bird in which behavioral and ecological observations suggest the occurrence of conspecific brood parasitism (CBP). We inferred aspects of the genetic mating system of P. chihi in nature, using a genetic approach in the absence of parental information. We used five heterologous microsatellite loci and a multiple-step methodological approach to infer kinship patterns among 104 pairs of nestlings sampled inside 80 nests in a breeding colony from southern Brazil. The estimated effective population size was 69 white-faced ibises (95% CI: 50–98), enough to ensure long-term population survival. Kinship patterns were identified for 38% of the analyzed pairs: 60% of the diagnosed pairs were identified as full-siblings, 2.5% as half-siblings and 37.5% as unrelated individuals. CBP could explain the presence of unrelated nestlings within broods, in agreement with available non-genetic evidence. The presence of half-siblings within broods could indicate extra-pair paternity. Results suggest that a non-strictly monogamous genetic mating system may be present in the white-faced ibis. This study is the first molecular approach to better characterize the reproductive behavior of P. chihi in the wild. Our findings set the stage for further research to investigate the possible causes and consequences of alternative reproductive strategies in this species. J. Exp. Zool. 319A:277–284, 2013. © 2013 © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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