Article

Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 19, Issue 5, pp 365-372

First online:

Parent-offspring cooperation in the blue-footed boody (Sula nebouxii): social roles in infanticial brood reduction

  • Hugh DrummondAffiliated withInstituto de Biología, Departamento de Ecología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
  • , Edda GonzálezAffiliated withInstituto de Biología, Departamento de Ecología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
  • , José Luis OsornoAffiliated withInstituto de Biología, Departamento de Ecología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

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Summary

Reproduction in the blue-footed boody was examined for evidence of parent-offspring conflict over infanticidal reduction of the brood. Parental investment was analysed by measuring clutch characteristics, and chick growth and mortality in four seasons. Direct observations were made of behavioral development to determine the social roles of family members. The modal clutch was two similar-sized eggs, which hatched 4.0 days apart due to a 5.1-day laying interval and immediate incubation of the first egg. On average, senior chicks grew faster than their sibs in years of good or poor growth (Fig. 2), maintaining the initial size disparity for at least 65 days (Fig. 1). Differential mortality of junior chicks was associated not with poor personal growth, but with a 20–25% weight deficiency of the senior sib, implying siblicidal brood reduction triggered at a weight threshold. Senior chicks established behavioral dominance through low-frequency pecking, but ordinarily did not eliminate their sibs nor substantially suppress their begging (Fig. 3), even when their own growth was 16% below potential. Parents fed dominant chicks more frequently than subordinates, but did not intervene in inter-sib aggression, even when it reached a siblicidal level. The weight and possibly the dominance relation between sibs was inverted in 12% of pairs. The theoretical prediction of conflict over elimination of the junior chick was not supported; rather, parents and senior chick cooperate, as if their fitness interests were congruent. Further, provisional tolerance of the junior chick by its underweight senior sib is consistent with “self-sacrifice” to increase the latter's inclusive fitness.