Offspring of close relatives often suffer severe fitness consequences. Previous studies have demonstrated that females, when given a choice, will choose to avoid mating with closely related males. But where opportunities for mate choice are limited or kin recognition is absent, precopulatory mechanisms may not work. In this case, either sex could reduce the risks of inbreeding through mechanisms that occur during or after copulation. During mating, males or females could commit fewer gametes when mating with a close relative. After mating, females could offset the effects of mating with a closely related male through cryptic choice. Few prior studies of sperm competition have examined the effect of genetic similarity, however, and what studies do exist have yielded equivocal results. In an effort to resolve this issue, we measured the outcome of sperm competition when female Drosophila melanogaster were mated to males of four different degrees of genetic relatedness and then to a standardized competitor. We provide the strongest evidence to date that sperm competitive ability is negatively correlated with relatedness, even after controlling for inbreeding depression.
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Vol. 56 • No. 9