Group structure, within-group conflict and reproductive tactics in cooperatively breeding Galapagos mockingbirds, Nesomimus parvulus.

Reproductive conflict within groups can be an important feature of cooperative breeding systems, especially when more than one individual of a sex breeds within a social group. Relationships between group structure, dominance, within-group conflict and reproductive tactics of cooperatively breeding Galápagos mockingbirds were examined on Isla Genovesa. Territorial groups of 2–24 adults included up to three breeding females, with 42% of the groups containing more than one (plural groups); females in most plural groups nested separately. Territory size increased with group size, but the area available per pair in plural groups was smaller than in singular groups (groups with only one breeding pair). Most pairings were monogamous, and males usually outnumbered females; high-ranking males obtained mates more frequently than subordinate males. In 3 relatively dry years, but not in a wet El Niño year, subordinate pairs in plural groups fledged fewer young than dominant pairs or pairs breeding in singular groups. Interference by dominant breeders, often leading to abandonment of nests by subordinate pairs, appears to account for these differences: through nest disruption in drier years, dominant individuals may reduce the cost of sharing their territories and increase the chances of recruiting helpers. Dominant males in plural groups may also father young through extra-pair copulations with subordinate females. Despite costs imposed by within-group conflict, subordinate breeders have higher long-term reproductive success than birds that defer breeding. Plural group structure is maintained because unpredictable climatic variation favours opportunistic breeding by subordinates.

Main Author: Curry, Robert L.
Language: English
Published: 1988
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