Kin encounter rate and inbreeding avoidance in canids

Eli Geffen, Michael Kam, Reuven Hefner, Pall Hersteinsson, Anders Angerbjörn, Love Dalèn, Eva Fuglei, Karin Norèn, Jennifer R. Adams, John Vucetich, Thomas J. Meier, L. D. Mech, Bridgett Marie vonHoldt, Daniel R. Stahler, Robert K. Wayne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Mating with close kin can lead to inbreeding depression through the expression of recessive deleterious alleles and loss of heterozygosity. Mate selection may be affected by kin encounter rate, and inbreeding avoidance may not be uniform but associated with age and social system. Specifically, selection for kin recognition and inbreeding avoidance may be more developed in species that live in family groups or breed cooperatively. To test this hypothesis, we compared kin encounter rate and the proportion of related breeding pairs in noninbred and highly inbred canid populations. The chance of randomly encountering a full sib ranged between 1-8% and 20-22% in noninbred and inbred canid populations, respectively. We show that regardless of encounter rate, outside natal groups mates were selected independent of relatedness. Within natal groups, there was a significant avoidance of mating with a relative. Lack of discrimination against mating with close relatives outside packs suggests that the rate of inbreeding in canids is related to the proximity of close relatives, which could explain the high degree of inbreeding depression observed in some populations. The idea that kin encounter rate and social organization can explain the lack of inbreeding avoidance in some species is intriguing and may have implications for the management of populations at risk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5348-5358
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular ecology
Issue number24
StatePublished - Dec 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Genetics
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


  • Canis lupus
  • Vulpes lagopus
  • dispersal
  • kin recognition
  • sexual selection


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