When does female multiple mating evolve to adjust inbreeding? Effects of inbreeding depression, direct costs, mating constraints, and polyandry as a threshold trait

A. Bradley Duthie, Greta Bocedi, Jane M. Reid

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Polyandry is often hypothesised to evolve to allow females to adjust the degree to which they inbreed. Multiple factors might affect such evolution, including inbreeding depression, direct costs, constraints on male availability, and the nature of polyandry as a threshold trait. Complex models are required to evaluate when evolution of polyandry to adjust inbreeding is predicted to arise. We used a genetically-explicit individual-based model to track the joint evolution of inbreeding strategy and polyandry defined as a polygenic threshold trait. Evolution of polyandry to avoid inbreeding only occurred given strong inbreeding depression, low direct costs, and severe restrictions on initial versus additional male availability. Evolution of polyandry to prefer inbreeding only occurred given zero inbreeding depression and direct costs, and given similarly severe restrictions on male availability. However, due to its threshold nature, phenotypic polyandry was frequently expressed even when strongly selected against and hence maladaptive. Further, the degree to which females adjusted inbreeding through polyandry was typically very small, and often reflected constraints on male availability rather than adaptive reproductive strategy. Evolution of polyandry solely to adjust inbreeding might consequently be highly restricted in nature, and such evolution cannot necessarily be directly inferred from observed magnitudes of inbreeding adjustment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1927-1943
Number of pages17
Issue number9
Early online date21 Aug 2016
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2016



  • inbreeding strategy
  • inbreeding avoidance
  • inbreeding preference
  • mate choice
  • multiple mating
  • polyandry

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