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Biol Lett. 2007 Feb 22;3(1):36-9.

No evidence of inbreeding avoidance in a polygynous ungulate: the reindeer (Rangifer tarandus).

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Department of Animal and Aquacultural Sciences, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, PO Box 5003, 1432 As, Norway.


In polygynous species, mate choice is an integrated part of sexual selection. However, whether mate choice occurs independently of the genetic relatedness among mating pairs has received little attention, although inbreeding may have fitness consequences. We studied whether genetic relatedness influenced females' choice of partner in a highly polygynous ungulate--the reindeer (Rangifer tarandus)--in an experimental herd during two consecutive rutting seasons; the herd consisting of 75 females in 1999 and 74 females in 2000 was exposed to three 4.5-year-old adults and three 1.5-year-old young males, respectively. The females' distribution during peak rut was not influenced by their genetic relatedness with the dominant males of the mating groups. Further, genetic relatedness did not influence the actual choice of mating partner. We conclude that inbreeding avoidance through mating group choice as well as choice of mating partner, two interconnected processes of female mate choice operating at two different scales in space and time, in such a highly female-biased reindeer populations with low level of inbreeding may not occur.

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