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Proc Biol Sci. 2003 Jun 7;270(1520):1163-9.

Mother-offspring interactions affect natal dispersal in a lizard.

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  • 1Laboratoire Fonctionnement et Evolution des Systèmes Biologiques, Ecole Normale Supérieure, 46 rue d'Ulm, 75005 Paris, France.


Interactions between relatives operate strong selective pressures on dispersal. Recently, a correlative study in the common lizard (Lacerta vivipara) suggested that natal dispersal might respond plastically to mother-offspring interactions. Here, we describe a factorial experiment supporting this observation. Two crossed treatments were applied to experimental patches of the common lizard: (i) presence versus absence of the mother, inducing a difference of kinship in offspring neighbourhoods; and (ii) high versus low patch density, resulting in two levels of conspecific abundance and modulating the effect of mother presence on the average kinship within a patch. Dispersal of the same cohort of offspring was observed at the juvenile and yearling stages. We found a sex-dependent response of offspring dispersal to the removal of the mother at the two stages. During the juvenile stage, higher dispersal was found in females in the presence of the mother, with males unaffected. During the yearling stage, the responses of both sexes to the presence of the mother opposed each other. In addition, we found a negative relationship between dispersal and patch density at the juvenile stage. No interaction between density and the presence of the mother was detected, which suggests that behavioural responses to kinship and density are disconnected and that kinship is assessed at a small social scale. We discuss the role of competition and inbreeding avoidance to explain the observed pattern.

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