Colony kin structure and host-parasite relatedness in the barnacle goose

Sofia Anderholm, Peter Waldeck, Henk P. Van Der Jeugd, R. C. Marshall, Kjell Larsson, Malte Andersson

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15 Citations (SciVal)


Conspecific brood parasitism (CBP), females laying eggs in the nest of other 'host' females of the same species, is a common alternative reproductive tactic among birds. For hosts there are likely costs of incubating and rearing foreign offspring, but costs may be low in species with precocial chicks such as waterfowl, among which CBP is common. Waterfowl show strong female natal philopatry, and spatial relatedness among females may influence the evolution of CBP. Here we investigate fine-scale kin structure in a Baltic colony of barnacle geese, Branta leucopsis, estimating female spatial relatedness using protein fingerprints of egg albumen, and testing the performance of this estimator in known mother-daughter pairs. Relatedness was significantly higher between neighbour females (nesting ≤ 40 metres from each other) than between females nesting farther apart, but there was no further distance trend in relatedness. This pattern may be explained by earlier observations of females nesting close to their mother or brood sisters, even when far from the birth nest. Hosts and parasites were on average not more closely related than neighbour females. In 25 of 35 sampled parasitized nests, parasitic eggs were laid after the host female finished laying, too late to develop and hatch. Timely parasites, laying eggs in the host's laying sequence, had similar relatedness to hosts as that between neighbours. Females laying late parasitic eggs tended to be less related to the host, but not significantly so. Our results suggest that CBP in barnacle geese might represent different tactical life-history responses.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4955-4963
Number of pages9
JournalMolecular Ecology
Issue number23
Early online date02 Nov 2009
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2009


  • brood parasitism
  • fine-scale spatial structure
  • natal philopatry
  • protein fingerprinting
  • relatedness


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