Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 69, Issue 11, pp 1835–1843 | Cite as

Relatedness predicts multiple measures of investment in cooperative nest construction in sociable weavers

  • Gavin M. LeightonEmail author
  • Sebastian Echeverri
  • Dirk Heinrich
  • Holger Kolberg
Original Article


Although communal goods are often critical to society, they are simultaneously susceptible to exploitation and are evolutionarily stable only if mechanisms exist to curtail exploitation. Mechanisms such as punishment and kin selection have been offered as general explanations for how communal resources can be maintained. Evidence for these mechanisms comes largely from humans and social insects, leaving their generality in question. To assess how communal resources are maintained, we observed cooperative nest construction in sociable weavers (Philetairus socius). The communal nest of sociable weavers provides thermal benefits for all individuals but requires continual maintenance. We observed cooperative nest construction and also recorded basic morphological characteristics. We also collected blood samples, performed next-generation sequencing, and isolated 2358 variable single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) to estimate relatedness. We find that relatedness predicts investment in cooperative nest construction, while no other morphological characters significantly explain cooperative output. We argue that indirect benefits are a critical fitness component for maintaining the cooperative behavior that maintains the communal good.


Sociable weavers Kin selection Inclusive fitness Tragedy of the commons Cooperation 



We would like to thank the Bader family for hosting us on the Wiese property in Namibia and allowing us to collect this data. We thank Neil Thomson and Gudrun Middendorff for the assistance in the field. We thank the individuals at the Cornell Institute for Genomic Diversity for assisting with the data collection and analysis. We would also like to thank Elizabeth Cooper for the suggestions and guidance when analyzing the SNP data. This manuscript was improved by comments from J. David Van Dyken and two anonymous referees. This work was funded by a National Science Foundation grant to GML (#121500), a University of Miami College of Arts and Sciences Summer Fellowship awarded to GML, and the Robert E. Maytag Endowment.

Supplementary material

265_2015_1996_MOESM1_ESM.docx (505 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 504 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gavin M. Leighton
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sebastian Echeverri
    • 2
  • Dirk Heinrich
    • 3
  • Holger Kolberg
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Ecology & Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Ecology and EvolutionUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA
  3. 3.SAFRING: Namibian Ringing UnitWindhoekNamibia

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