Current indirect fitness benefits associated with philopatry in juvenile prairie voles
- Cite this article as:
- Solomon, N.G. Behav Ecol Sociobiol (1991) 29: 277. doi:10.1007/BF00163985
Prairie vole (Microtus ochrogaster) family groups were examined to determine possible indirect fitness benefits from the presence of juvenile helpers at the natal nest. The reproductive performance of family groups retaining two juveniles was compared with that of families in which all juveniles were removed when the subsequent litter was born. Litter sizes at birth of the second litter and pup survival rates were the same in the two treatments. Offspring quality was affected by the presence of juveniles however. Pups reared with juveniles weighed 13% more at weaning than pups reared without juveniles. Pups also opened their eyes sooner when juveniles were present. Differences in growth and development may have been affected by the amount of time pups were alone in the nest since pups in families with juveniles were left alone less frequently than were pups without juveniles. Maternal behavior patterns were not affected by the presence of juveniles. In contrast, fathers in families with juveniles spent more time in non-parental behaviors such as feeding, drinking, and foraging. In families with large litters, mothers delivered a subsequent litter sooner if juveniles were present. Subsequent litter sizes were the same in both treatments. Overall, both infants and parents benefited from the presence of juveniles, suggesting that helping may enhance the helper's indirect fitness in multiple ways.