Inbreeding depression and its consequences for mate choice have been extensively studied in free-living animals. However, very little is known about its significance for parasites, although it is well recognized that the mating systems of parasites can have important implications for their epidemiology and evolution. In this article, we show that the cestode Schistocephalus solidus shows incestuous mate preference despite evidence for very strong inbreeding depression. When given the simultaneous choice between mating with a sibling and an unrelated partner, on average, the cestode preferred its sibling. To explain this surprising result, we present three hypotheses that suggest different benefits to fitness of incestuous mating, which could, alone or in concert, outweigh the cost of inbreeding depression.
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Vol. 61 • No. 2