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Eider females form non-kin brood-rearing coalitions

Molecular Ecology

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Abstract

Kin selection is a powerful tool for understanding cooperation among individuals, yet its role as the sole explanation of cooperative societies has recently been challenged on empirical grounds. These studies suggest that direct benefits of cooperation are often overlooked, and that partner choice may be a widespread mechanism of cooperation. Female eider ducks (Somateria mollissima) may rear broods alone, or they may pool their broods and share brood-rearing. Females are philopatric, and it has been suggested that colonies may largely consist of related females, which could promote interactions among relatives. Alternatively, shared brood care could be random with respect to relatedness, either because brood amalgamations are accidental and nonadaptive, or through group augmentation, assuming that the fitness of all group members increases with group size. We tested these alternatives by measuring the relatedness of co-tending eider females in enduring coalitions with microsatellite markers. Females formed enduring brood-rearing coalitions with each other at random with respect to relatedness. However, based on previous data, partner choice is nonrandom and dependent on female body condition. We discuss potential mechanisms underlying eider communal brood-rearing decisions, which may be driven by the specific ecological conditions under which sociality has evolved in this species.

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Article
Publication Subtype:
Journal Article
Title:
Eider females form non-kin brood-rearing coalitions
Series title:
Molecular Ecology
Volume
14
Issue:
12
Year Published:
2005
Language:
English
Contributing office(s):
National Wildlife Health Center
Description:
p. 3903-3908
Larger Work Type:
Article
Larger Work Subtype:
Journal Article
Larger Work Title:
Molecular Ecology
First page:
3903
Last page:
3908
Number of Pages:
6