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Multiple paternity and kin recognition mechanisms in a guppy population


Bryan D. Neff, Fax: (519) 661 3935; E-mail:


Help directed toward kin (nepotism) is an important example of social behaviour. Such helping behaviour requires a mechanism to distinguish kin from nonkin. The prevailing kin recognition hypothesis is that when familiarity is a reliable cue of relatedness, other mechanisms of recognition will not evolve. However, when familiarity is an unreliable cue of relatedness, kin recognition by phenotype matching is instead predicted to evolve. Here we use genetic markers to show that guppies (Poecilia reticulata) from a population in a tributary of the Paria River in Trinidad are characterized by a high degree of multiple mating with 95% of broods having more than one sire and some dams having offspring sired by six males. These levels of multiple mating are the highest reported among live-bearing fishes. The mean relatedness of brood-mates was 0.36 (as compared to 0.5 for full-siblings). Therefore, familiarity does not seem to be a reliable mechanism to assess full-sibling relatedness. Using two-choice behavioural trials, we found that juveniles from this population use both phenotype matching and familiarity to distinguish kin from nonkin. However, we did not find strong evidence that the guppies use these mechanisms to form shoals of related individuals as adults, which is similar to results from other guppy populations in Trinidad. The use of both familiarity and phenotype matching is discussed in the context of the Paria River guppy population's mating system and ecology. Overall, these data provide support for the kin recognition hypothesis and increase our understanding of the evolution of kin recognition systems.