David Wells

School of Biological and Environmental Sciences

I am interested in the genetics underlying fitness. Does the whole genome contribute to fitness or is it a small number of very important loci? In most species inbreeding leads to a reduction in fitness, seemingly due to many small effects across the genome. This fitness reduction, termed inbreeding depression, often leads to inbreeding avoidance. However this is not always the case and there are cases where inbreeding preference is predicted.Banded mongooses often inbreed because of their social structure, this makes them perfect for studying the evolution of inbreeding. Inbreeding preference has rarely been studied in vertebrates but is a growing topic with implications on dispersal, mating and social systems. The results also carry over to conservation where inbreeding depression is a common concern.My aims are to understand why individual mongooses inbreed and what effects that has on fitness and social interactions. In my work I use genetic markers, pedigrees, animal models and Bayesian methods.


2015, University of Cambridge, UK, MPhil in Zoology
2013, University of Oxford, UK, BA in Biological Sciences

Journal article

Sheppard CE, Marshall HH, Inger R, Vitikainen EIK, Barker S, Nichols HJ, Wells DA, McDonald RA, Cant MA. 2018. Decoupling of genetic and cultural inheritance in a wild mammal Current Biology, 28 :1846-1850 DOI Author Url Publisher Url Public Url

Wells DA, Cant MA, Nichols HJ, Hoffman JI. 2018. A high quality pedigree and genetic markers both reveal inbreeding depression for quality but not survival in a cooperative mammal. Molecular Ecology, DOI Author Url Publisher Url Public Url

Mitchell J, Vitikainen EIK, Wells DA, Cant MA, Nichols HJ. 2016. Heterozygosity but not inbreeding coefficient predicts parasite burdens in the banded mongoose Journal of Zoology, DOI Author Url Publisher Url Public Url