Helping effort and future fitness in cooperative animal societies

Cant, Michael A and Field, Jeremy (2001) Helping effort and future fitness in cooperative animal societies. Proceedings B: Biological Sciences, 268 (1479). pp. 1959-1964. ISSN 0962-8452

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Little attention has been paid to a conspicuous and universal feature of animal societies: the variation between individuals in helping effort. Here, we develop a multiplayer kin¿selection model that assumes that subordinates face a trade¿off because current investment in help reduces their own future reproductive success. The model makes two predictions: (i) subordinates will work less hard the closer they are to inheriting breeding status; and (ii) for a given dominance rank, subordinates will work less hard in larger groups. The second prediction reflects the larger pay¿off from inheriting a larger group. Both predictions were tested through a field experiment on the paper wasp Polistes dominulus. First, we measured an index of helping effort among subordinates, then we removed successive dominants to reveal the inheritance ranks of the subordinates: their positions in the queue to inherit dominance. We found that both inheritance rank and group size had significant effects on helping effort, in the manner predicted by our model. The close match between our theoretical and empirical results suggests that individuals adjust their helping effort according to their expected future reproductive success. This relationship has probably remained hidden in previous studies that have focused on variation in genetic relatedness.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Life Sciences > Evolution, Behaviour and Environment
Depositing User: Jeremy Field
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2012 20:01
Last Modified: 28 Mar 2012 13:34
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