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Proc Biol Sci. 2013 Jan 22;280(1751):20121937. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2012.1937.

Genetic relatedness to sisters' children has been underestimated.

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Department of Anthropology, University of Utah, 270 S 1400 E, Salt Lake City, UT 84112, USA.


Males of many species help in the care and provisioning of offspring, and these investments often correlate with genetic relatedness. For example, many human males invest in the children of sisters, and this is especially so where men are less likely to share genes with children of wives. Although this makes qualitative sense, it has been difficult to support quantitatively. The prevailing model predicts investment in children of sisters only when paternity confidence falls below 0.268. This value is often seen as too low to be credible; so investment in sisters' children represents an unsolved problem. I show here that the prevailing model rests on a series of restrictive assumptions that underestimate relatedness to sisters' children. For this reason, it understates the fitness payoff to men who invest in these children. This effect can be substantial, especially in societies with low confidence in paternity. But this effect cannot be estimated solely from confidence in paternity. One must also estimate the probability that two siblings share the same father.

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