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Parental and alloparental investment in campo flickers (Colaptes campestris campestris): when relatedness comes first

Abstract

In cooperative species, parental investment may be shared with auxiliaries. Kin selection and other types of benefits have been proposed to explain the evolution of helping behavior. Auxiliaries are expected to be more helpful when closely related to the breeders. In this context, breeders may adjust parental investment in at least three ways: (a) reducing their effort and being compensated by the auxiliaries’ investment (compensatory effect); (b) maintaining their effort, with an increase in total investment (additive effect); or (c) partial compensation, i.e., a decrease in care by the parents but not by as much as the increase in care from the auxiliaries. We studied the cooperative species Colaptes campestris campestris and tested the following hypotheses: (1) partial compensation effect occurs, (2) parents modulate their investment relative to the auxiliaries’ investment, (3) auxiliaries adjust their investment according to their relationship to the offspring, and (4) groups whose members are in better physical condition fledge more young or these are in better condition. We determined relatedness within groups and monitored parental and alloparental behavior during breeding. Breeders in cooperative groups presented the same investment as unattended breeders. Restricting the analysis to cooperative groups revealed that the investment made by auxiliaries reflected their relatedness to the young and positively affected the investment by breeders. Results suggest that a partial compensation occurs in the species, with breeders reducing their effort despite the small increase in overall nest investment. Results highlight the importance of kin selection in the evolution of cooperative breeding in campo flickers.

Significance statement

Cooperatively breeding birds may have auxiliaries that help rear their brood. The evolution of helping behavior may derive from kin selection, where auxiliaries could gain a genetic benefit by helping to rear kin, which occurs when groups are composed of closely related individuals. However, it is often the case that some offspring may not be closely related to the auxiliaries due to the species’ mating system. We used the cooperatively breeding campo flickers to investigate whether and how the presence of auxiliaries might affect parental care patterns and nest productivity. We found that breeders did not reduce their investment in the presence of auxiliaries and that cooperative groups present the same overall investment when compared with unassisted pairs, indicating that the investment made by auxiliaries was not large enough to affect the total investment nor the breeders’ investment. Our results also show that auxiliaries increased their investment when they were more closely related to the brood.

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Acknowledgements

We are grateful to Debora Goedert, Marcelo Kuhlmann, Jonas Maravalhas, Isadora Oliveira, João V. Caetano, and Paula Sicsú for help with fieldwork. We thank Irby Lovette for allowing access to his lab and especially Laura Stenzler for all the support during lab work. We also thank two anonymous reviewers for their suggestions in an earlier version of the manuscript.

Funding

This study was supported by the François Vuilleumier Fund and the University of Brasília. RID was supported by the Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior and the Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico through student scholarships, and RHM was supported through a CNPq research fellowship.

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Correspondence to Raphael Igor Dias.

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All applicable international, national, and institutional guidelines for the use and capture of animals were followed. The study complied with the current laws of Brazil under permits 14368 and 2056 from Instituto Brasileiro de Recursos Renováveis.

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The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Data availability

The datasets analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

Additional information

Communicated by J. Komdeur

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Dias, R.I., Webster, M.S. & Macedo, R.H. Parental and alloparental investment in campo flickers (Colaptes campestris campestris): when relatedness comes first. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 71, 139 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00265-017-2368-3

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00265-017-2368-3

Keywords

  • Additive effect
  • Compensatory effect
  • Cooperative breeding
  • Kin selection
  • Parental care
  • Relatedness
  • Sociality