Female-biased dispersal alone can reduce the occurrence of inbreeding in black grouse (Tetrao tetrix)

Authors

  • C. LEBIGRE,

    1. School of Biological Sciences, University of Aberdeen, Tillydrone avenue, Aberdeen, AB24 2TZ, UK
    2. Centre of Excellence in Evolutionary Research, Department of Biological and Environmental Science, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland
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  • R. V. ALATALO,

    1. Centre of Excellence in Evolutionary Research, Department of Biological and Environmental Science, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland
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  • H. SIITARI

    1. Centre of Excellence in Evolutionary Research, Department of Biological and Environmental Science, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland
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Dr Christophe Lebigre, Fax: +44(0)1224 272 396; E-mail: c.lebigre@abdn.ac.uk

Abstract

Although inbreeding depression and mechanisms for kin recognition have been described in natural bird populations, inbreeding avoidance through mate choice has rarely been reported suggesting that sex-biased dispersal is the main mechanism reducing the risks of inbreeding. However, a full understanding of the effect of dispersal on the occurrence of inbred matings requires estimating the inbreeding risks prior to dispersal. Combining pairwise relatedness measures and kinship assignments, we investigated in black grouse whether the observed occurrence of inbred matings was explained by active kin discrimination or by female-biased dispersal. In this large continuous population, copulations between close relatives were rare. As female mate choice was random for relatedness, females with more relatives in the local flock tended to mate with genetically more similar males. To quantify the initial risks of inbreeding, we measured the relatedness to the males of females captured in their parental flock and virtually translocated female hatchlings in their parental and to more distant flocks. These tests indicated that dispersal decreased the likelihood of mating with relatives and that philopatric females had higher inbreeding risks than the actual breeding females. As females do not discriminate against relatives, the few inbred matings were probably due to the variance in female dispersal propensity and dispersal distance. Our results support the view that kin discrimination mate choice is of little value if dispersal effectively reduces the risks of inbreeding.

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