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Keywords:

  • female multiple mating;
  • fertilization insurance;
  • inbreeding avoidance;
  • individual heterozygosity;
  • microsatellites;
  • offspring survival;
  • paternity analyses;
  • relatedness

An explanation for female multiple mating when males offer no material benefits but sperm remains elusive, largely because of a lack of empirical support for the genetic benefits hypothesis. We used 21 microsatellite markers to test for multiple paternities among 88 litters of roe deer, Capreolus capreolus, and to investigate the inbreeding avoidance hypothesis as a potential mechanism for the evolution of female multiple mating. From paternity analyses, we found that 13.5% of polytocous litters were sired by more than one male. We also found that a half-sib relationship was more likely than a full-sib relationship for 20.5% of all litters. This is the first report of multiple paternities in a territorial ungulate species. In support of the inbreeding avoidance hypothesis, we found that parents who were strongly related produced offspring with lower individual heterozygosity that survived less well during their first summer than fawns with unrelated parents. In addition, fawns from multiple paternity litters survived their first summer better than fawns from single paternity litters. However, it remains unclear whether all female multiple paternity events in this species are provoked by an initial consanguineous mating. © 2009 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 2009, 97, 128–139.