Family dynasties in the Tasmanian native hen (Gallinula mortierii)
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For species that form multi-generational and territorial family groups, resource-rich areas are predicted to support family dynasties in which one genetic lineage continuously occupies an area and may even expand to occupy surrounding areas. Data from a long-term study of Tasmanian native hens (Gallinula mortierii) support this prediction. The reproductive success and dispersal patterns of 18 hen lineages were monitored for seven breeding seasons and over several generations. The founder group with the highest average territory quality produced the highest total number of fledged young and the highest number of fledged linear descendants, accounting for 24% of the combined reproductive output of these 18 lineages. In the space of 6 years, this single genetic lineage expanded from one territory to occupy 12 of the 47 territories present in the population. This rate of expansion was over four times the population average for the same period. A multivariate analysis revealed that the success of a genetic lineage depended only on the number of high-quality territories surrounding the founder group. These results further demonstrate the resource-dependent nature of reproductive success in this species, and also highlight the potential importance of family dynasties in other cooperative species with complex social dynamics and dispersal patterns.
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