Helping effort in a dominance hierarchy

Cant, Michael A and Field, Jeremy (2005) Helping effort in a dominance hierarchy. Behavioral Ecology, 16 (4). pp. 708-715. ISSN 0340-5443

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In many cooperatively breeding species, group members form a dominance hierarchy or queue to inherit the position of breeder. Models aimed at understanding individual variation in helping behavior, however, rarely take into account the effect of dominance rank on expected future reproductive success and thus the potential direct fitness costs of helping. Here we develop a kin-selection model of helping behavior in multimember groups in which only the highest ranking individual breeds. Each group member can invest in the dominant's offspring at a cost to its own survivorship. The model predicts that lower ranked subordinates, who have a smaller probability of inheriting the group, should work harder than higher ranked subordinates. This prediction holds regardless of whether the intrinsic mortality rate of subordinates increases or decreases with rank. The prediction does not necessarily hold, however, where the costs of helping are higher for lower ranked individuals: a situation that may be common in vertebrates. The model makes two further testable predictions: that the helping effort of an individual of given rank should be lower in larger groups, and the reproductive success of dominants should be greater where group members are more closely related. Empirical evidence for these predictions is discussed. We argue that the effects of rank on stable helping effort may explain why attempts to correlate individual helping effort with relatedness in cooperatively breeding species have met with limited success.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Life Sciences > Evolution, Behaviour and Environment
Depositing User: Jeremy Field
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2012 21:29
Last Modified: 26 Mar 2012 16:17
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