Behavioral and demographic changes following the loss of the breeding female in cooperatively breeding marmosets
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Recent models of the evolution and dynamics of family structure in cooperatively breeding vertebrates predict that the opening of breeding vacancies in cooperatively breeding groups will result in (1) dispersal movements to fill the reproductive position, and (2) within-group conflict over access to reproduction. We describe the behavioral and demographic changes that followed the creation of breeding vacancies in three wild groups of cooperatively breeding common marmosets (Callithrix jacchus). Replacement of the breeding female was rapid when no adult females remained in the group, but did not occur for several months when other adult females were present. Aggression of adult animals towards same-sex potential immigrants was associated with a period of reduced affiliation, increased intragroup agonism, no intragroup sexual behavior, and frequent extragroup copulations. This ended with the fissioning of groups along sexual lines. After replacement, multiple males copulated with multiple females and vice versa, with no increases in sexually related aggression. Female-female conflict was resolved through infanticide. The lack of direct conflict between males is consistent with cooperative polyandry. After a breeding vacancy appeared, marmoset groups showed conflict of interests among group members similar to those shown by cooperatively breeding birds, but they used different behavioral mechanisms to resolve those conflicts. Our data provide important evidence from a cooperatively breeding mammal to support Emlen’s model for the evolution of vertebrate families, but they suggest that species-specific inter- and intrasexual competitive strategies should be considered before the model can be applied to other cooperatively breeding vertebrates.
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