We studied patterns of relatedness and nesting dispersion in female Pacific Greater White-fronted Geese (Anser albifrons frontalis) in Alaska. Female Greater White-fronted Geese are thought to be strongly philopatric and are often observed nesting in close association with other females. Analysis of the distribution of nests on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta in 1998 indicated that nests were significantly clumped. We tested the hypothesis that females in the same nest cluster would be closely related using estimates of genetic relatedness based on six microsatellite DNA loci. There was no difference in the mean relatedness of females in the same cluster compared to females found in different clusters. However, relatedness among females was negatively correlated with distance between their nests, and geese nesting within 50 m of one another tended to be more closely related than those nesting farther apart. Randomization tests revealed that pairs of related individuals (R > 0.45) were more likely to occur in the same cluster when analyzed at the scale of the entire study site. However, the pattern did not hold when restricted to pairs found within 500 m of each other. Our results indicate that nest clusters are not composed primarily of closely related females, but Greater White-fronted Geese appear to be sufficiently philopatric to promote nonrandom patterns of relatedness at a local scale.
Additional publication details
Relatedness and nesting dispersion within breeding populations of greater white-fronted geese