Influence of kinship on helping behavior in Galapagos mockingbirds.

The social organization of the Galápagos mockingbird ( Nesomimus parvulus ) in unusual in that groups frequently include more than one breeding pair (plural breeding), and helping behavior is flexible: some birds neither breed nor help, while others do both. To investigate the influence of kinship on helping behavior, I categorized each bird as a helper or non-helper with respect to each nest within its group where it had an opportunity to help. The incidence of helping varied with relatedness: more birds helped when nestlings available to be fed were close relatives than when not. This result was independent of a higher incidence of helping among males than among females and of variation with age among males. Proportionally more nonbreeding than breeding males helped, but breeding and nonbreeding females helped equally infrequently; breeders helped most often after their own nests failed. The incidence of helping was highest among birds with opportunities to feed offspring of breeders that had fed the potential helper as a nestling, suggesting a mechanism for kin discrimination based on associative learning. Juveniles with opportunities to choose among alternative recipients preferentially fed closely related nestlings, but insufficient information was available to determine if adults also did so. Kinship did not influence the rate at which nestlings were fed by helpers. Juveniles fed nestlings at lower rates than did adult helpers, but helping effort was otherwise unaffected by age, sex, or relatedness. Limitation of help to former feeders functions as a mechanism for directing aid to relatives in a plural breeding system where degrees of kinship vary among potential recipients within the same group.

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