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J Evol Biol. 2011 Aug;24(8):1685-94. doi: 10.1111/j.1420-9101.2011.02294.x. Epub 2011 May 17.

Evidence of multiple paternity and mate selection for inbreeding avoidance in wild eastern chipmunks.

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Département de biologie, Université de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, QC, Canada.


Mate selection for inbreeding avoidance is documented in several taxa. In mammals, most conclusive evidence comes from captive experiments that control for the availability of mates and for the level of genetic relatedness between mating partners. However, the importance of mate selection for inbreeding avoidance as a determinant of siring success in the wild has rarely been addressed. We followed the reproduction of a wild population of eastern chipmunks (Tamias striatus) during five breeding seasons between 2006 and 2009. Using molecular tools and parentage assignment methods, we found that multiple paternity (among polytocous litters) varied from 25% in an early-spring breeding season when less than a quarter of females in the population were reproductively active to 100% across three summer breeding seasons and one spring breeding season when more than 85% of females were reproductively active. Genetically related parents were common in this population and produced less heterozygous offspring. Furthermore, litters with multiple sires showed a higher average relatedness among partners than litters with only a single sire. In multiply sired litters, however, males that were more closely related to their partners sired fewer offspring. Our results corroborate findings from captive experiments and suggest that selection for inbreeding avoidance can be an important determinant of reproductive success in wild mammals.

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