Premating Avoidance of Inbreeding Absent in Female Guppies (Poecilia reticulata)


Åslaug Viken, Department of Biology, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Høgskoleringen 5, NO-7491 Trondheim, Norway.


The recognition and avoidance of kin during mating can be an important means of reducing the potential for inbreeding depression in offspring. We report here that premating mechanisms to avoid inbreeding, either innate or learnt through juvenile experience, are at best weak in female guppies (Poecilia reticulata). Guppies are small, ovoviviparous, neo-tropical freshwater fish, with a polygamous mating system where males actively court females and females are selective of their mates. In a series of mate-choice experiments, naïve, virgin females of the Quare River population in Trinidad were given a choice between a brother and a non-sib male from the same population. Initially, females were only provided olfactory cues upon which to base their choice and then subsequently both olfactory and visual cues. Despite the females displaying mate choice, we found no evidence of them discriminating between the male types in either experiment. There was thus no indication of inbreeding avoidance, suggesting that experiences after maturation or with mature males (e.g. rare male preference), dispersal and/or post-mating mechanisms may be evolutionarily more important avoidance mechanisms.