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Peacocks lek with relatives even in the absence of social and environmental cues

Lookup NU author(s): Emerita Professor Marion Petrie


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Lek mating systems are characterized by males displaying in groups. The main benefit from group display is thought to be an increase in the number of females arriving per male. However, when mating success is highly skewed it is not clear why unsuccessful males participate in group display. In theory, all males on leks could obtain indirect fitness benefits if displaying groups consisted of related individuals. Here we present two independent sets of data that show that peacocks (Pavo cristatus) display close to their kin. DNA fingerprinting showed that males at Whipsnade Park were more closely related to males within the same lek than to males at other leks. Separately, we found that after an experimental release of a mixed group of related and unrelated males, brothers (paternal sibs or half-sibs) established permanent display sites very close together. This result is unexpected, as the released birds could not become familiar with their brothers during their development. The released young were hatched from eggs that had been removed from their parents shortly after laying and mixed with the eggs of non-relatives. These data indicate that birds can evolve a means of kin association that does not involve learning the characteristics of relatives or the use of environmental cues. If social learning is not necessary for kin association then kin effects may be of more widespread importance in avian social interactions, and in particular in the evolution of lek mating, than previously appreciated.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Petrie M, Krupa A, Bucke T

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Nature

Year: 1999

Volume: 401

Issue: 6749

Pages: 155-157

Print publication date: 09/09/1999

ISSN (print): 0028-0836

ISSN (electronic): 1476-4687

Publisher: Nature Publishing Group


DOI: 10.1038/43651


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