Invading together: the benefits of coalition dispersal in a cooperative bird
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Dispersal attempts can be costly and may often end in failure. Individuals should therefore only disperse when the benefits of dispersal outweigh the costs. While previous research has focussed on aspects of the individual that may affect dispersal success, social factors may also influence dispersal outcomes. One way of achieving successful dispersal could be through cooperative, or coalition dispersal. I investigated this possibility in the cooperatively breeding Arabian babbler Turdoides squamiceps. I found that coalition dispersal appears to be an effective strategy to ensure the success of dispersal attempts, with coalitions more successful than lone individuals at taking over the breeding position in a new group. Lone dispersal was more costly than coalition dispersal, with lone individuals suffering a greater loss of body mass during dispersal attempts. These results suggest a substantial short-term benefit for this type of cooperative behaviour. There was no evidence for dispersal polymorphism in the population, with no detectable phenotypic difference between dispersers and non-dispersers or those that dispersed as part of a coalition compared with those that dispersed alone.
KeywordsArabian babbler Coalition dispersal Dispersal dynamics Philopatry Cooperative breeding
My sincere thanks to Professors Amotz and Avishag Zahavi for their continual support, guidance, and inspiration. Thanks also to my hard-working field assistants: Matt Bell, Kat Munro, Sarah Ross-Viles, and Kate Smith. My thanks to Professor Tim Clutton-Brock for insightful supervision and Tim Coulson, Sarah Hodge, Andy Russell, Alex Thompson, and Andy Young for useful comments, advice, and discussion. I appreciate the insightful comments of the three anonymous reviewers. This research was supported by a Prince of Wales Cambridge Commonwealth Trust scholarship and a Wingate scholarship.
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