Risk-sensitive foraging and the evolution of cooperative breeding and reproductive skew

Hans J. Poethke, Juergen Liebig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

8 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background. Group formation and food sharing in animals may reduce variance in resource supply to breeding individuals. For some species it has thus been interpreted as a mechanism of risk avoidance. However, in many groups reproduction is extremely skewed. In such groups resources are not shared equally among the members and inter-individual variance in resource supply may be extreme. The potential consequences of this aspect of group living have not attained much attention in the context of risk sensitive foraging. Results. We develop a model of individually foraging animals that share resources for reproduction. The model allows analyzing how mean foraging success, inter-individual variance of foraging success, and the cost of reproduction and offspring raising influence the benefit of group formation and resource sharing. Our model shows that the effects are diametrically opposed in egalitarian groups versus groups with high reproductive skew. For individuals in egalitarian groups the relative benefit of group formation increases under conditions of increasing variance in foraging success and decreasing cost of reproduction. On the other hand individuals in groups with high skew will profit from group formation under conditions of decreasing variance in individual foraging success and increasing cost of reproduction. Conclusion. The model clearly demonstrates that reproductive skew qualitatively changes the influence of food sharing on the reproductive output of groups. It shows that the individual benefits of variance reduction in egalitarian groups and variance enhancement in groups with reproductive skew depend critically on ecological and life-history parameters. Our model of risk-sensitive foraging thus allows comparing animal societies as different as spiders and birds in a single framework.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2
JournalBMC Ecology
Volume8
DOIs
StatePublished - 2008

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cooperative breeding
Breeding
Reproduction
foraging
resource
Costs and Cost Analysis
animal
cost
Food
Spiders
food
spider
Birds
animals
life history
breeding
alloparental behavior
bird
profits and margins
Araneae

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

Cite this

Risk-sensitive foraging and the evolution of cooperative breeding and reproductive skew. / Poethke, Hans J.; Liebig, Juergen.

In: BMC Ecology, Vol. 8, 2, 2008.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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