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Experimental evidence for kin-biased helping in a cooperatively breeding vertebrate

Russell, A.F. and Hatchwell, B.J. (2001) Experimental evidence for kin-biased helping in a cooperatively breeding vertebrate. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 268 (1481). pp. 2169-2174. ISSN 1471-2954


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The widespread belief that kin selection is necessary for the evolution of cooperative breeding in vertebrates has recently been questioned. These doubts have primarily arisen because of the paucity of unequivocal evidence for kin preferences in cooperative behaviour. Using the cooperative breeding system of long-tailed tits (Aegithalos caudatus) in which kin and non-kin breed within each social unit and helpers are failed breeders, we investigated whether helpers preferentially direct their care towards kin following breeding failure. First, using observational data, we show that not all failed breeders actually become helpers, but that those that do help usually do so at the nest of a close relative. Second, we confirm the importance of kinship for helping in this species by conducting a choice experiment. We show that potential helpers do not become helpers in the absence of close kin and, when given a choice between helping equidistant broods belonging to kin and non-kin within the same social unit, virtually all helped at the nest of kin. This study provides strong evidence that kinship plays an essential role in the maintenance of cooperative breeding in this species.

Item Type: Article
Copyright, Publisher and Additional Information: Copyright © 2001 The Royal Society. Reproduced in accordance with the publisher's self-archiving policy.
Keywords: cooperation, helpers, indirect fitness, long-lailed tit, kinship
Institution: The University of Sheffield
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Science (Sheffield) > School of Biological Sciences (Sheffield) > Department of Animal and Plant Sciences (Sheffield)
Depositing User: Repository Officer
Date Deposited: 26 Jun 2006
Last Modified: 05 Jun 2014 20:42
Published Version: http://www.journals.royalsoc.ac.uk/openurl.asp?gen...
Status: Published
Publisher: The Royal Society
Refereed: Yes
Identification Number: 10.1098/rspb.2001.1790
URI: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/1384

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