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How Pronghorn Females Avoid Inbreeding Depression

Dunn, Stacey J., Byers, John A.
Ethology 2016 v.122 no.12 pp. 973-981
Antilocapra americana, animal behavior, courtship, estrus, females, inbreeding, inbreeding depression, males
After a bottleneck in a closed population of pronghorn (Antilocapra americana), some inbred matings occurred, and we detected significant inbreeding depression. But inbred matings occurred less frequently than would be expected by chance. Pronghorn females chose mates after a sampling period and had complete control of the mating decision. Therefore, to discover the behavioral mechanism by which females avoided mating with close kin, we studied female movements and courtship sequences. When females moved from one harem to another in the sampling process, they did not shift to harem males of lower coancestry as they approached estrus. Rather, females progressed more slowly through the later courtship stages when the harem male was related vs. unrelated. Also, the rates of male courtship acts were higher within unrelated vs. related pairs. Some females appeared to use multiple mating as an inbreeding avoidance strategy. Our results suggested that inbreeding avoidance by female pronghorn occurred primarily by reactions to the late stages of male courtship, rather than by spatial avoidance of related males.