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Mol Ecol. 2007 Oct;16(20):4356-69. Epub 2007 Sep 4.

Patterns of relatedness and parentage in an asocial, polyandrous striped hyena population.

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Department of Zoology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA.


We investigated patterns of relatedness and reproduction in a population of striped hyenas in which individuals are behaviourally solitary but form polyandrous spatial groups consisting of one adult female and multiple adult males. Group-mate males were often close relatives, but were unrelated or distantly related in some cases, indicating that male coalitions are not strictly a result of philopatry or dispersal with cohorts of relatives. Most male-female pairs within spatial groups were unrelated or only distantly related. Considering patterns of relatedness between groups, relatedness was significantly higher among adult males living in non-neighbouring ranges than among neighbouring males. Mean relatedness among male-female dyads was highest for group-mates, but relatedness among non-neighbouring males and females was also significantly higher than among dyads of opposite-sex neighbours. Female-female relatedness also increased significantly with increasing geographic separation. These unusual and unexpected patterns may reflect selection to settle in a nonadjacent manner to reduce inbreeding and/or competition among relatives for resources (both sexes), or mates (males). Finally, resident males fathered the majority of the resident female's cubs, but extra-group paternity was likely in 31% of the cases examined, and multiple paternity was likely in half of the sampled litters.

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