The effect of sex-biased dispersal on opposite-sexed spatial genetic structure and inbreeding risk

Michaela D.J. Blyton, Sam C. Banks, Rod Peakall

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Natal sex-biased dispersal has long been thought to reduce the risk of inbreeding by spatially separating opposite-sexed kin. Yet, comprehensive and quantitative evaluations of this hypothesis are lacking. In this study, we quantified the effectiveness of sex-biased dispersal as an inbreeding avoidance strategy by combining spatially explicit simulations and empirical data. We quantified the extent of kin clustering by measuring the degree of spatial autocorrelation among opposite-sexed individuals (FM structure). This allowed us to systematically explore how the extent of sex-biased dispersal, generational overlap, and mate searching distance, influenced both kin clustering, and the resulting inbreeding in the absence of complementary inbreeding avoidance strategies. Simulations revealed that when sex-biased dispersal was limited, positive FM genetic structure developed quickly and increased as the mate searching distance decreased or as generational overlap increased. Interestingly, complete long-range sex-biased dispersal did not prevent the development of FM genetic structure when generations overlapped. We found a very strong correlation between FM genetic structure and both FIS under random mating, and pedigree-based measures of inbreeding. Thus, we show that the detection of FM genetic structure can be a strong indicator of inbreeding risk. Empirical data for two species with different life history strategies yielded patterns congruent with our simulations. Our study illustrates a new application of spatial genetic autocorrelation analysis that offers a framework for quantifying the risk of inbreeding that is easily extendable to other species. Furthermore, our findings provide other researchers with a context for interpreting observed patterns of opposite-sexed spatial genetic structure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1681-1695
Number of pages15
JournalMolecular Ecology
Issue number8
Early online date11 Mar 2015
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2015
Externally publishedYes


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