Why animals prefer to be with their kin?
Washington: How many animals are able to discriminate between related and unrelated individuals has proven remarkably difficult to understand.
Joachim Frommen and colleagues at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna have investigated the issue using the three-spined stickleback and its shoaling preferences as a model system.
It turns out that the fish prefer kin to unrelated conspecifics, regardless of how familiar they are with individual shoal members.
The results indicate that level of familiarity does not affect the stickleback`s ability to recognize kin.
Recognition based on phenotype matching or innate recognition thus seems to be the overruling mechanism when it comes to choosing members of a peer group.
Numerous species, from microbes to humans and even plants, are able to distinguish relatives from others of their kind.
However, it has proven remarkably difficult to uncover the underlying mechanisms.
When family members remain together for life, it is likely that recognition of relatives is based on familiarity. But how do animals recognize kin if they do not live in family groups?
One possible way of recognizing relatives may be "phenotype matching", in which individuals compare traits such as looks or scent of relatives with whom they are familiar to those of unknown conspecifics: shared genes can give rise to similar phenotypes.
But distantly related individuals, such as those that share a genetic ancestor, may look or smell similar although they are not close relatives.
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