The effects of age and relatedness on mating patterns in thornbug treehoppers: inbreeding avoidance or inbreeding tolerance?
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- De Luca, P.A. & Cocroft, R.B. Behav Ecol Sociobiol (2008) 62: 1869. doi:10.1007/s00265-008-0616-2
The social environment of many species includes synchronous maturation of siblings in family groups, followed by limited dispersal of adults from their natal site. Under these conditions, females may experience high encounter rates with same-age siblings during mate searching, increasing their risk of inbreeding. If inbreeding depression occurs, mating with a sibling is often considered maladaptive; however, in some contexts, the inclusive fitness benefits of inbreeding may outweigh the costs, favoring females that tolerate some level of inbreeding depression. We evaluated mating patterns in the treehopper Umbonia crassicornis, a semelparous species in which females encounter same-age siblings during mate searching. A female U. crassicornis that mates with a brother suffers from inbreeding depression. We used a free-choice mating design that offered females simultaneous mating opportunities with three groups of males: siblings, same-age nonsiblings, and older nonsiblings. These groups represent the types of males typically encountered by females during mate searching. Our goal was to assess whether mating patterns were influenced by inbreeding avoidance by evaluating two hypotheses: kin discrimination and age-based mating (older males cannot be siblings in this species). There was no difference in the proportions of females mating with siblings vs nonsiblings, suggesting an absence of kin discrimination. However, females mated with a greater proportion of older vs younger males. Given that females do not avoid siblings as mates despite a cost to inbreeding, our results provide a possible example of inbreeding tolerance. We also discuss some factors that may have contributed to the mating advantage of older males.