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Understanding the evolutionary dynamics of inbreeding and inbreeding depression requires unbiased estimation of inbreeding depression across diverse mating systems. However, studies estimating inbreeding depression often measure inbreeding with error, for example, based on pedigree data derived from observed parental behavior that ignore paternity error stemming from multiple mating. Such paternity error causes error in estimated coefficients of inbreeding (f) and reproductive success and could bias estimates of inbreeding depression. We used complete "apparent" pedigree data compiled from observed parental behavior and analogous "actual" pedigree data comprising genetic parentage to quantify effects of paternity error stemming from extra-pair reproduction on estimates of f, reproductive success, and inbreeding depression in free-living song sparrows (Melospiza melodia). Paternity error caused widespread error in estimates of f and male reproductive success, causing inbreeding depression in male and female annual and lifetime reproductive success and juvenile male survival to be substantially underestimated. Conversely, inbreeding depression in adult male survival tended to be overestimated when paternity error was ignored. Pedigree error stemming from extra-pair reproduction therefore caused substantial and divergent bias in estimates of inbreeding depression that could bias tests of evolutionary theories regarding inbreeding and inbreeding depression and their links to variation in mating system.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





802 - 815


Animals Female *Genetic Fitness Genetics, Population/*methods *Inbreeding Male Models, Genetic *Pedigree Reproduction/genetics Selection Bias Sparrows/*genetics/physiology Conservation genetics lethal equivalents lifetime reproductive success measurement error paternity polyandry