Javascript is not activated in your browser. This website needs javascript activated to work properly.
You are here

No evidence for inbreeding avoidance in a great reed warbler population

  • Bengt Hansson
  • L Jack
  • JK Christians
  • JM Pemberton
  • Mikael Åkesson
  • Helena Westerdahl
  • Staffan Bensch
  • Dennis Hasselquist
Publishing year: 2007
Language: English
Pages: 157-164
Publication/Series: Behavioral Ecology
Volume: 18
Issue: 1
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Oxford University Press

Abstract english

Inbreeding depression may drive the evolution of inbreeding avoidance through dispersal and mate choice. In birds, many species show female-biased dispersal, which is an effective inbreeding avoidance mechanism. In contrast, there is scarce evidence in birds for kin discriminative mate choice, which may, at least partly, reflect difficulties detecting it. First, kin discrimination may be realized as dispersal, and this is difficult to distinguish from other causes of dispersal. Second, even within small, isolated populations, it is often difficult to determine the potential candidates available to a female when choosing a mate. We sought evidence for inbreeding avoidance via kin discrimination in a breeding population of great reed warblers (Acrocephalus arundinaceus) studied over 17 years. Inbreeding depression is strong in the population, suggesting that it would be adaptive to avoid relatives as mates. Detailed data on timing of settlement and mate search movements made it possible to identify candidate mates for each female, and long-term pedigrees and resolved parentage enabled us to estimate relatedness between females and their candidate mates. We found no evidence for kin discrimination: mate choice was random with respect to relatedness when all mate-choice events were considered, and, after correction for multiple tests, also in all breeding years. We suggest that dispersal is a sufficient inbreeding avoidance mechanism in most situations, although the lack of kin discriminative mate choice has negative consequences for some females, because they end up mating with closely related males that lowers their fitness.


  • Biological Sciences
  • pedigree
  • kin
  • inbreeding depression
  • inbreeding avoidance
  • dispersal
  • recognition
  • relatedness


  • Long-term study of great reed warblers
  • Molecular Ecology and Evolution Lab
  • ISSN: 1045-2249
Dennis Hasselquist
E-mail: dennis [dot] hasselquist [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se



+46 46 222 37 08



Research group


Doctoral students and postdocs

Research fellows


Jacob Roved

PhD Students, main supervisor

PhD Students, assistant supervisor


Interview about my research in the Swedish podcast "Forskarn & jag"