Inbreeding avoidance, or the inbreeding avoidance hypothesis, is a concept in evolutionary biology that refers to the prevention of the deleterious effects of inbreeding. The inbreeding avoidance hypothesis posits that certain mechanisms develop within a species, or within a given population of a species, as a result of natural and sexual selection in order to prevent breeding among related individuals in that species or population. Although inbreeding may impose certain evolutionary costs, inbreeding avoidance, which limits the number of potential mates for a given individual, can inflict opportunity costs. Therefore, a balance exists between inbreeding and inbreeding avoidance. This balance determines whether inbreeding mechanisms develop and the specific nature of said mechanisms.Inbreeding results in inbreeding depression, which is the reduction of fitness of a given population due to inbreeding. Inbreeding depression occurs via one of two mechanisms. The first mechanism involves the appearance of disadvantageous traits via the pairing of deleterious recessive alleles in a mating pair’s progeny. When two related individuals mate, the probability of deleterious recessive alleles pairing in the resulting offspring is higher as compared to when non-related individuals mate. The second mechanism relates to the increased fitness of heterozygotes. Many studies have demonstrated that homozygous individuals are often disadvantaged with respect to heterozygous individuals. For example, a study conducted on a population of South African cheetahs demonstrated that the lack of genetic variability among individuals in the population has resulted in negative consequences for individuals, such as a greater rate of juvenile mortality and spermatozoal abnormalities. When heterozygotes possess a fitness advantage relative to a homozygote, a population with a large number of homozygotes will have a relatively reduced fitness, thus leading to inbreeding depression. Through these described mechanisms, the effects of inbreeding depression are often severe enough to cause the evolution of inbreeding avoidance mechanisms.