During the breeding season, California Quail (Callipepla californica) form two types of groups: those with a single associated adult female (single family groups), and those with more than one associated female (communal family groups). Although single family groups are assumed to be the result of a monogamous pairing of the associated male and female, additional males often associate with these groups. I conducted a preliminary investigation of the genetic relationship among the adults and young in California Quail families using three single-locus microsatellite markers. Both male and female adults were excluded as being the parents of some proportion of the associated young. Females had higher exclusion rates in communal than in single families, while there was no difference for males. A limited number of young were excluded from being the offspring of any of the adults associated with their family. In the first of three study years, adults were more related to one another in families than they were to the population; this relationship disappeared in subsequent years, possibly as a result of disturbance on site. These results suggest that families form, in part, as a result of factors other than direct genetic parentage. These factors might include selection for increasing group size, intermittent kin selection, and proximate factors related to the gregarious behavior of California Quail.
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