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Nature. 1989 Jan 5;337(6202):70-2.

Female transfer and inbreeding avoidance in social mammals.

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Large Animal Research Group, Department of Zoology, Cambridge, UK.


In most social mammals, males leave their natal group to breed in other groups whereas females commonly remain in the same group throughout their lives. In a few species however, females usually transfer between groups during adolescence. The functional significance of sex differences in dispersal and their connection, if any, to the avoidance of inbreeding is disputed. Here I show that in polygynous mammals where females commonly remain to breed in their natal group, their average age at first conception typically exceeds the average period of residence of adult males in breeding groups. In contrast, where females usually transfer to breed in other groups, the average residence of breeding males or of resident male kin groups typically exceeds the average age of females at first conception. These results support the suggestion that female mammals commonly transfer to avoid inbreeding with their father or other close relatives, although female dispersal may also occur for other reasons.

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