Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 26, Issue 3, pp 191–199 | Cite as

Promiscuity: an inbreeding avoidance mechanism in a socially monogamous species?

  • M. G. Brooked
  • I. Rowley
  • M. Adams
  • P. R. Baverstock


Paternity likelihood was tested in a population of splendid fairy-wrens Malurus splendens by allozyme electrophoresis. A total of 91 offspring of 24 dams and 37 putative sires were typed at 10 polymorphic loci. All young were compatible with their dams but at least 65% were not fathered by any of the males in their group. A long-term study of this wren population has shown that the males are sedentary, show little evidence of dispersal and help care for the nestlings and fledglings in their group. Had the senior male sired all the offspring in his group, there would have been a high incidence of close inbreeding. The promiscuous mating system demonstrated here would reduce the level of inbreeding in the population but still allow individuals the security of group-living in a stable year-round territory.


Mating System Polymorphic Locus Avoidance Mechanism Monogamous Species Allozyme Electrophoresis 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. G. Brooked
    • 1
  • I. Rowley
    • 1
  • M. Adams
    • 2
  • P. R. Baverstock
    • 2
  1. 1.CSIRO Division of Wildlife and EcologyMidlandAustralia
  2. 2.Evolutionary Biology UnitSouth Australian MuseumAdelaideAustralia

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