Macquarie University
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Ecological effects and social correlates of group living in the chestnut-crowned babbler (Pomatostomus ruficeps)

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posted on 2022-03-29, 03:06 authored by Enrico Sorato
Group-living represents a widespread feature of animal social organisation, which has implications for the evolution of cooperation and other complex behaviours. Yet, the factors selecting for animal aggregations, in particular stable groups forming through offspring philopatry, remain elusive. This thesis examines possible costs and benefits of group living in an Australian cooperatively-breeding bird species, the Chestnut-crowned Babbler {Pomatostomus ruficeps). The study was conducted at the UNSW Arid Zone Research Station at Fowlers Gap, in the far-west New South Wales, Australia, from October 2007 to March 2010.1 found that ecology, mainly habitat characteristics and local predation pressure, has profound implications for babbler social organisation, as indicated by its effects on group size, space use, and behaviour, as well as patterns of dispersal within the study population. Specifically, predation risk appeared to vary with habitat-type and was associated with group behaviours consistent with adaptive risk reduction. Variation in local ecology was also a strong predictor of group ranging behaviour, was consistent with hypothesised local resource depletion, and seemed to interact with group size in determining movements of foraging groups on a daily basis. The importance of habitat features was confirmed by its effects on group home range size, which in turn, was a relevant predictor of group response to playback vocalisations simulating conspecific intrusion.


Table of Contents

1. General introduction -- 2. Predator encounter probability and behavioural responses in the cooperatively breeding chestnut-crowned babbler -- 3. Ranging behaviour in the cooperatively breeding chestnut-crowned babbler is consistent with local resource depletion affecting daily group movements -- 4. Habitat effects on home-ranging behviour and group size in cooperatively breeding chestnut-crowned babblers -- 5. Interacting effects of local ecology and group size predict group approach to playback vocalisations in chestnut-crowned babblers -- 6. Interacting effects of sex, individual phenotype, group size, and habitat on dispersal in the cooperatively breeding chestnut-crowned babbler -- 7. General discussion -- Appendix.


Includes bibliographical references This thesis is presented for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Macquarie University, Dept. of Biological Sciences, 2012.

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


Thesis (PhD), Macquarie University, Faculty of Science, Dept. of Biological Sciences

Department, Centre or School

Department of Biological Sciences

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Simon Griffith

Additional Supervisor 1

Andy Russell


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1 online resource (viii, 203 p.) ill., map

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