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Kin associations and direct vs indirect fitness benefits in colonial cooperatively breeding sociable weavers Philetairus socius

Abstract : Indirect fitness benefits are believed to be an important force behind the evolution of cooperative breeding. However, helpers may associate with their relatives as a result of delayed dispersal, hence, kin associations might be a consequence of demographic viscosity rather than active choice. In addition, recent studies showed that helpers may have access to reproduction therefore direct benefits might also play an important role. Here, we investigate the possible roles of direct genetic benefits and kin associations on helping behavior in the sociable weaver Philetairus socius, a colonial and cooperatively breeding passerine. We used a microsatellite-based genotyping method to describe the genetic structure within nests and colonies. Within a colony, we found considerable genetic structure between males but not females. Sociable weaver colonies have several nests that are simultaneously active, giving individuals a choice of associating with a range of first-order kin to unrelated individuals. Helpers were significantly more related to the young in the helped nests than in other nests of the colony, suggesting an active choice for associating with kin. The helpers were generally offspring or first-order relatives of one (50%) or both (43%) breeders, although more infrequently, seemingly unrelated individuals also helped (7%). We found no supporting evidence of extrapair parentage and hence no direct genetic gains from helping in our population. This strong reproductive skew is contrary to theoretical models predicting conflicts over reproduction in stepfamilies. We discuss whether female decisions and/or other direct benefits of remaining in kin associations or helping might explain the high skew observed
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Rita Covas, Ambroise Dalecky, Alain Caizergues, Claire Doutrelant. Kin associations and direct vs indirect fitness benefits in colonial cooperatively breeding sociable weavers Philetairus socius. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, Springer Verlag, 2006, 60 (3), pp.323-331. ⟨10.1007/S00265-006-0168-2⟩. ⟨hal-02663301⟩

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