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Title: The evolution of cooperation in the communal breeding banded mongoose
Author: Hodge, S.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2004
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Recent attempts to understand the evolutionary origins of cooperative breeding systems have focused on finding the answers to two questions; (1) when do subordinates help? and (2) when do subordinates breed? In this thesis, I investigate these questions in the banded mongoose, one of the few cooperative species where multiple females regularly breed. I show that helpers benefit the offspring that they care for; pups that receive a lot of care grow faster, survive better and have better future reproductive success than their littermates. Pups compete aggressively for access to good helpers, and larger offspring have a competitive advantage. Larger, more dominant females produce larger pups that can outcompete their subordinate littermates. As a result, the costs of allowing subordinates to breed are likely to be low, because the offspring of more dominant females will be buffered against resource shortages by their superior ability to compete for helpers. As a consequence, suppression of subordinate reproduction is likely to be unnecessary in the banded mongoose, providing an explanation for why reproductive skew among females is low. However, if the communal litter size exceeds the level that is optimal, females employ behavioural tactics to interfere with the reproductive attempts of subordinates Female reproductive success is strongly correlated with body condition, which may explain why helper contributions in the banded mongoose are male-biased, as male helpers are better able to bear the short-term weight loss associated with providing care. These results highlight the importance of understanding how patterns of reproductive skew influence contributions to helping in cooperative societies.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available