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Direct benefits explain interspecific variation in helping behaviour among cooperatively breeding birds

Kingma, S. A. 23-Oct-2017 In : Nature Communications. 8, 7 p., 1094

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • Sjouke A. Kingma

Kin selection theory provides one important explanation for seemingly altruistic helping behaviour by non-breeding subordinates in cooperative breeding animals. However, it cannot explain why helpers in many species provide energetically costly care to unrelated offspring. Here, I use comparative analyses to show that direct fitness benefits of helping others, associated with future opportunities to breed in the resident territory, are responsible for the widespread variation in helping effort (offspring food provisioning) and kin discrimination across cooperatively breeding birds. In species where prospects of territory inheritance are larger, subordinates provide more help, and, unlike subordinates that cannot inherit a territory, do not preferentially direct care towards related offspring. Thus, while kin selection can underlie helping behaviour in some species, direct benefits are much more important than currently recognised and explain why unrelated individuals provide substantial help in many bird species.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1094
Number of pages7
JournalNature Communications
Volume8
StatePublished - 23-Oct-2017

    Keywords

  • GALLINULA-CHLOROPUS, GROUP AUGMENTATION, FITNESS BENEFITS, HELPERS INCREASE, PARENTAL CARE, LIFE-HISTORY, FAIRY-WREN, EVOLUTION, RECIPROCITY, DEMOGRAPHY

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