Plastic female choice to optimally balance (k)in- and out-breeding in a predatory mite

Peter Schausberger, Demet Cekin

Both close inbreeding and extreme outbreeding may negatively affect direct fitness. Optimal outbreeding theory suggests that females should preferentially mate with distantly related males. (K)in breeding theory suggests that, at similar direct fitness costs of close inbreeding and extreme outbreeding, females should prefer close kin to non-kin. Empirical evidence of plastic female choice for an optimal balance between close inbreeding and extreme outbreeding remains elusive. We tested the combined predictions of optimal outbreeding and (k)in breeding theories in predatory mites Phytoseiulus persimilis from two origins, Sicily and Greece, which suffer from both close inbreeding and extreme outbreeding depression. In three separate experiments, virgin females were presented binary choices between familiar and unfamiliar brothers, and between familiar/unfamiliar brothers and distant kin or non-kin. Females of Greece but not Sicily preferred unfamiliar to familiar brothers. Females of both origins preferred distant kin to unfamiliar and familiar brothers but preferred unfamiliar brothers to non-kin. Females of Sicily but not Greece preferred familiar brothers to non-kin. The suggested kin recognition mechanisms are phenotype matching and direct familiarity, with finer-tuned recognition abilities of Greece females. Overall, our experiments suggest that flexible mate choice by P. persimilis females allows optimally balancing inclusive fitness trade-offs.

Department of Behavioral and Cognitive Biology
External organisation(s)
Universität für Bodenkultur Wien
Scientific Reports
Publication date
Peer reviewed
Austrian Fields of Science 2012
106051 Behavioural biology
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