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Spatial Association in a Highly Inbred Ungulate Population: Evidence of Fine-Scale Kin Recognition


Jorge Cassinello, Instituto de Investigación en Recursos Cinegéticos (IREC), CSIC-UCLM-JCCM, Ronda de Toledo s/n, 13071 Ciudad Real, Spain. E-mail:


We present the first evidence of fine-scale kin recognition, based on a continuous measure of relatedness, in ungulates. The spatial association between herdmates of a captive population of aoudad (Ammotragus lervia), where all the individuals are related, is analysed during resting time. Our goal was to estimate which factors influence individuals’ associations. The study population is highly inbred, although it does not show serious deleterious effects caused by consanguinity. It comprises a single captive herd, reproducing freely and in good conditions for more than 10 yr. It emerges that kin, measured as the coefficient of relationship between two given herdmates, is the main factor determining the spatial association (e.g. average distance) of male–male and female–female dyads, as more-related individuals tend to rest closer to each other than less-related ones. As for male–female dyads, individuals of a similar age tend to stay closer. To rule out any familiarity confounding effects, individuals’ cohabitation time in the herd was added as a random factor in the analyses. Concerning the type of dyad, mother–calf dyads are characterized by higher proximity than others, particularly during the suckling period, whereas males tend to stay closer to each other than females or male–female dyads, being also more kin-related. Female social rank does not influence spatial association between herdmates. These results are related to group composition of the species in the wild, which are characterized by intense mother–calf bonds and all-male groups that are probably kin-related. It is seen that adult male–female associations are not related to kinship, but to age similarity, which is in accord with the assumption that main family groups in the wild are formed by matrilineal lines, whereas males are the dispersing sex.

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