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In their investigation into whether female mate-choice drives male dispersal, Höner et al.1 argue that female spotted hyaenas (Crocuta crocuta) prefer mates whose tenure in the social group is less than the females’ age, to avoid paternal incest, and suggest that male dispersal reflects this preference. However, we are not persuaded that females choose mates on the basis of tenure because Höner et al.1 overlook the alternative hypothesis that dispersal status itself is important in female mate-choice2,3, such that females prefer immigrants over natal males. Like mate-choice based on tenure, choice based on dispersal status reduces the risk of incest.
Van Horn, R. V., Watts, H. E. & Holekamp, K. E. 2008. Do female hyaenas choose mates based on tenure? Nature 454 doi:10.1038/nature07122.