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Three hypotheses concerning potential genetic benefits of female multiple mating behaviour are evaluated for the common shrew. In a high-density population, many successful copulations took place between individuals estimated to be close relatives (e.g. full or half siblings). Juveniles resulting from such matings tended to be relatively small at weaning, and were generally less likely to survive to sexual maturity than more outbred individuals. Multiple paternity was discovered in eight of nine litters examined. The incidence of matings between close relatives, the cost of inbreeding, and the high incidence of multiple paternity presented are each consistent with the hypothesis that female multiple mating is a strategy to reduce inbreeding. That is, if females cannot always distinguish close kin, then they may copulate with several different males and so reduce the risk that all their offspring will be sired by a close relative.

Original publication




Journal article


Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences

Publication Date





173 - 179