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Females increase reproductive investment in response to helper-mediated improvements in allo-feeding, nest survival, nestling provisioning and post-fledging survival in the Karoo scrub-robin Cercotrichas coryphaeus

Journal of Avian Biology

By:
, , ,
DOI: 10.1111/j.1600-048X.2008.04642.x

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Abstract

In many cooperatively-breeding species, the presence of one or more helpers improves the reproductive performance of the breeding pair receiving help. Helper contributions can take many different forms, including allo-feeding, offspring provisioning, and offspring guarding or defence. Yet, most studies have focussed on single forms of helper contribution, particularly offspring provisioning, and few have evaluated the relative importance of a broader range of helper contributions to group reproductive performance. We examined helper contributions to multiple components of breeding performance in the Karoo scrub-robin Cercotrichas coryphaeus, a facultative cooperative breeder. We also tested a prediction of increased female investment in reproduction when helpers improve conditions for rearing young. Helpers assisted the breeding male in allo-feeding the incubating female, increasing allo-feeding rates. Greater allo-feeding correlated with greater female nest attentiveness during incubation. Nest predation was substantially lower among pairs breeding with a helper, resulting in a 74% increase in the probability of nest survival. Helper contributions to offspring provisioning increased nestling feeding rates, resulting in a reduced incidence of nestling starvation and increased nestling mass. Nestling mass had a strong, positive effect on post-fledging survival. Controlling for female age and habitat effects, annual production of fledged young was 130% greater among pairs breeding with a helper, and was influenced most strongly by helper correlates with nest survival, despite important helper effects on offspring provisioning. Females breeding with a helper increased clutch size, supporting the prediction of increased female investment in reproduction in response to helper benefits. ?? 2009 J. Avian Biol.

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Article
Publication Subtype:
Journal Article
Title:
Females increase reproductive investment in response to helper-mediated improvements in allo-feeding, nest survival, nestling provisioning and post-fledging survival in the Karoo scrub-robin Cercotrichas coryphaeus
Series title:
Journal of Avian Biology
DOI:
10.1111/j.1600-048X.2008.04642.x
Volume
40
Issue:
4
Year Published:
2009
Language:
English
Larger Work Type:
Article
Larger Work Subtype:
Journal Article
First page:
400
Last page:
411
Number of Pages:
12