Natal dispersal and parental escorting predict relatedness between mates in a passerine bird


Erik Matthysen, Fax: +32 3820 2271; E-mail:


Although relatedness between mates is of considerable evolutionary and ecological significance, the way in which the level of relatedness is determined by different behavioural processes remains largely unknown. We investigated the role of behaviour in predicting mate relatedness in great tits using genotypic markers and detailed observations. We studied how mate relatedness is influenced by natal dispersal, inbreeding/outbreeding avoidance after natal dispersal and a behaviour not previously considered that influences membership to social aggregations, namely family escorting behaviour by parents. Among locally born individuals, the level of mate relatedness decreased with natal dispersal distance for females, but not for males. In contrast, mate relatedness was negatively related to the extent of family movements for males, but not for females. However, family movements did not predict dispersal distance for either sex. Local recruits were more related to their mates than immigrants, but this was only significant for females. No evidence was found for inbreeding/outbreeding avoidance after dispersal. Our results suggest that, in highly mobile species, mating options are spatially and/or socially limited, and that parents influence mating options of their offspring before dispersal.