Characterizing the spatial arrangement of related individuals within populations can convey information about opportunities for the evolution of kin-selected social behaviors, the potential for inbreeding, and the geographic distribution of genetic variation. Prairie voles (Microtus ochrogaster) are socially monogamous rodents that sometimes breed cooperatively. Individuals of both sexes are highly philopatric, and among natal dispersers, the average dispersal distance is about 30 m. Such limited natal dispersal can result in the spatial clustering of kin and we used microsatellite data to estimate genetic relatedness among resident adult prairie voles in 2 natural populations to test the hypothesis that limited natal dispersal of male and female prairie voles results in the spatial clustering of kin. Spatial autocorrelation analyses of nest residency and microsatellite data indicated that proximate same-sex adult residents of both sexes were significantly more related than more spatially distant resident samesex adults in Kansas. In Indiana, adult female voles residing less than 20 m apart were also significantly more related than more spatially distant resident adult females but spatial clustering of kin was not detected among resident adult males. The spatial clustering of kin indicates that opportunities for kin-selected behaviors exist in both populations, especially among females. Differences in the patterns of spatial genetic structure among resident males between the Kansas and Indiana populations may be due to population differences in factors such as demography and mating system, as well as in the extent of natal philopatry.
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Vol. 96 • No. 6