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Towards unbiased parentage assignment: combining genetic, behavioural and spatial data in a Bayesian framework


J. Hadfield, Fax: +44 (0)114 2220002; E-mail:


Inferring the parentage of a sample of individuals is often a prerequisite for many types of analysis in molecular ecology, evolutionary biology and quantitative genetics. In all but a few cases, the method of parentage assignment is divorced from the methods used to estimate the parameters of primary interest, such as mate choice or heritability. Here we present a Bayesian approach that simultaneously estimates the parentage of a sample of individuals and a wide range of population-level parameters in which we are interested. We show that joint estimation of parentage and population-level parameters increases the power of parentage assignment, reduces bias in parameter estimation, and accurately evaluates uncertainty in both. We illustrate the method by analysing a number of simulated test data sets, and through a re-analysis of parentage in the Seychelles warbler, Acrocephalus sechellensis. A combination of behavioural, spatial and genetic data are used in the analyses and, importantly, the method does not require strong prior information about the relationship between nongenetic data and parentage.