Future fitness and helping in social queues

Field, Jeremy, Cronin, Adam and Bridge, Catherine (2006) Future fitness and helping in social queues. Nature, 441. pp. 214-217. ISSN 0028-0836

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Helpers in primitively eusocial and cooperatively breeding animal societies forfeit their own reproduction to rear the offspring of a queen or breeding pair, but may eventually attain breeding status themselves. Kin selection1 provides a widely accepted theoretical framework for understanding these societies, but differences in genetic relatedness do not explain a universal societal feature: the huge variation between individuals in helping effort2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10. An alternative explanation for this variation lies in a fundamental trade-off faced by helpers: by working harder, they increase the indirect component of their fitness, but simultaneously decrease their own future survival and fecundity2,4,8. Here, we show that individuals work less hard when they stand to lose more future fitness through working. We experimentally manipulated two components of future fitness in social queues of hover wasps (Stenogastrinae): a helper's chance of inheriting an egg-laying position, and the workforce available to rear her offspring should she inherit. After each manipulation, helpers increased or decreased their effort as appropriate to the change in expected future fitness that they experienced. Although helping provides significant indirect fitness benefits for hover wasps11, our study shows that variation in the costs associated with helping is the major determinant of helping effort.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Shows that variation in future fitness is the hidden factor explaining much of the hitherto unexplained variation in individual behaviour within social groups. The paper was reviewed in Current Biology and Nature News and Views. I was the PI of this NERC-funded project.
Schools and Departments: School of Life Sciences > Evolution, Behaviour and Environment
Depositing User: Jeremy Field
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2012 18:25
Last Modified: 26 Mar 2012 16:02
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/16257
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