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Proc Biol Sci. 2005 Oct 7;272(1576):2017-22.

Does kin selection influence fostering behaviour in Antarctic fur seals (Arctocephalus gazella)?

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Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EJ, UK.


A recent observation that female Antarctic fur seals foster pups born to related females raises the fascinating possibility that kin selection may promote altruistic behaviour even on a crowded breeding beach, where individual interactions are frequent and complex. However, the use of genetic markers to identify small numbers of unusually highly related individuals is fraught with difficulty due to the likely presence of genotyping errors and related problems. Consequently, we examined an enlarged dataset where errors had been reduced to an absolute minimum by a combination of close scrutiny and repeat genotyping. We find no support for the idea that females preferentially suckle pups born to female relatives. Instead, the previously reported pattern can be explained by a combination of genotyping errors and de novo mutations. Our study emphasizes the need for caution when interpreting rare events that occur at a rate approaching that expected for normal genotyping errors.

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