Antagonistic effect of helpers on breeding male and female survival in a cooperatively breeding bird.

Change log
Paquet, Matthieu 
Doutrelant, Claire 
Hatchwell, Ben J 
Spottiswoode, Claire N 
Covas, Rita 
  1. Cooperatively breeding species are typically long lived and hence, according to theory, are expected to maximize their lifetime reproductive success through maximizing survival. Under these circumstances, the presence of helpers could be used to lighten the effort of current reproduction for parents to achieve higher survival. 2. In addition, individuals of different sexes and ages may follow different strategies, but whether male and female breeders and individuals of different ages benefit differently from the presence of helpers has often been overlooked. Moreover, only one study that investigated the relationship between parental survival and the presence of helpers used capture-mark-recapture analyses (CMR). These methods are important since they allow us to account for the non-detection of individuals that are alive in the population but not detected, and thus, the effects on survival and recapture probability to be disentangled. 3. Here, we used multi-event CMR methods to investigate whether the number of helpers was associated with an increase in survival probability for male and female breeders of different ages in the sociable weaver Philetairus socius. In this species, both sexes reduce their feeding rate in the presence of helpers. We therefore predicted that the presence of helpers should increase the breeders' survival in both sexes, especially early in life when individuals potentially have more future breeding opportunities. In addition, sociable weaver females reduce their investment in eggs in the presence of helpers, so we predicted a stronger effect of helpers on female than male survival. 4. As expected we found that females had a higher survival probability when breeding with more helpers. Unexpectedly, however, male survival probability decreased with increasing number of helpers. This antagonistic effect diminished as the breeders grew older. 5. These results illustrate the complexity of fitness costs and benefits underlying cooperative behaviours and how these may vary with the individuals' sex and age. They also highlight the need for further studies on the sex-specific effects of helpers on survival.

cooperative breeding, family conflicts, investment, life-history strategies, sex-specific selection, Animals, Cooperative Behavior, Female, Longevity, Male, Reproduction, Sexual Behavior, Animal, Songbirds, Sparrows
Journal Title
J Anim Ecol
Conference Name
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Our research has received funding from the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence at the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology (South Africa), FEDER (Operational Programme for Competitiveness Factors – COMPETE) and Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT; PTDC/BIA-BEC/103818/2008), Project “Biodiversity, Ecology and Global Change” co-financed by North Portugal Regional Operational Programme 2007/2013 (ON.2), under the NSRF, ERDF. to RC, the region Languedoc Roussillon to CD, the Natural Environment Research Council (UK) to BJH, St John's College, Cambridge and the University of Cape Town to CNS , and the European programme Marie Curie-IRSES (FP7-PEOPLE-2012-IRSES; ‘Cooperation’ 318994). This research was conducted within the International Associate Laboratory LIA “Biodiversity and Evolution”.