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Data from: Kin selection, not group augmentation, predicts helping in an obligate cooperatively breeding bird

posted on 2022-06-10, 03:08 authored by Lucy E. Browning, Samantha C. Patrick, Lee A. Rollins, Simon C. Griffith, Andrew F. Russell
Kin selection theory has been the central model for understanding the evolution of cooperative breeding, where non-breeders help bear the cost of rearing young. Recently the dominance of this idea has been questioned; particularly in obligate cooperative breeders where breeding without help is uncommon and seldom successful. In such systems, the direct benefits gained through augmenting current group size have been hypothesised to provide a tractable alternative (or addition) to kin selection. However, clear empirical tests of the opposing predictions are lacking. Here, we provide convincing evidence to suggest that kin selection and not group augmentation accounts for decisions of whether, where and how often to help in an obligate cooperative breeder, the chestnut-crowned babbler (Pomatostomus ruficeps). We found no evidence that group members base helping decisions on the size of breeding units available in their social group, despite both correlational and experimental data showing substantial variation in the degree to which helpers affect productivity in units of different size. By contrast, 98% of group members with kin present helped, 100% directed their care towards the most related brood in the social group and those rearing half/full-sibs helped approximately 3 times harder than those rearing less/non-related broods. We conclude that kin selection plays a central role in the maintenance of cooperative breeding in this species, despite the apparent importance of living in large groups.

Usage Notes

breeding successThese data were used to analyse the effect of the number of individuals present in each unit on the number of fledglings produced per unit per feeding rateThese data were used to analyse the effect of experimentally enlarged and reduced broods on the per capita feeds (feeds/chick/hour) provided by the unit.individual contributionsThese data were used to analyse the effect of relatedness to recipient and breeding unit size on individual feeding rates.


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