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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1990 Apr;87(7):2496-500.

DNA "fingerprinting" reveals high levels of inbreeding in colonies of the eusocial naked mole-rat.

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  • 1Section of Neurobiology and Behavior, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853.


Using the technique of DNA fingerprinting, we investigated the genetic structure within and among four wild-caught colonies (n = 50 individuals) of a eusocial mammal, the naked mole-rat (Heterocephalus glaber; Rodentia: Bathyergidae). We found that DNA fingerprints of colony-mates were strikingly similar and that between colonies they were much more alike than fingerprints of non-kin in other free-living vertebrates. Extreme genetic similarity within colonies is due to close genetic relationship (mean relatedness estimate +/- SE, r = 0.81 +/- 0.10), which apparently results from consanguineous mating. The inbreeding coefficient (F = 0.45 +/- 0.18) is the highest yet recorded among wild mammals. The genetic structure of naked mole-rat colonies lends support to kin selection and ecological constraints models for the evolution of cooperative breeding and eusociality.

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