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Title: Functions and mechanisms of kin recognition in long-tailed tits, Aegithalos caudatus
Author: Leedale, Amy
ISNI:       0000 0004 7431 861X
Awarding Body: University of Sheffield
Current Institution: University of Sheffield
Date of Award: 2018
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Many cooperative societies are composed of relatives, and kin selection can often explain cooperation in such groups. However, prolonged association with relatives may also increase inbreeding risk. Here, I investigate kin discrimination in the contexts of helping and mate choice in the long-tailed tit Aegithalos caudatus, a facultative cooperative breeder in which failed breeders redirect help towards relatives. In Chapter 2, I quantify the fine-scale genetic structure within breeding populations, generated by the life-history and dispersal patterns associated with this unusual helping system. Kin remain clustered after dispersal, but helping patterns do not reflect kin structure; help is redirected towards close kin more often than expected by indiscriminate helping. This population structure also creates a potential inbreeding risk, and heterozygosity-fitness correlations indicate that inbreeding carries fitness costs (Chapter 3). Remarkably, this risk is alleviated by active avoidance of close kin as partners. In Chapters 4 & 5, I consider the recognition mechanism that permits kindirected helping and active inbreeding avoidance in this species. I devise a comprehensive method of measuring acoustic variation within and between individuals, and investigate whether vocal similarity may be used to assess relatedness and make adaptive helping and pairing decisions. Failed breeders redirect help towards the nests of males with similar calls, but call similarity within breeding pairs is higher than one would expect from random mating. Possible reasons for this are discussed. The variety of kin discrimination across social systems, and the circumstances under which certain mechanisms may be adaptive, are discussed. I highlight important considerations for assessing kin recognition mechanisms and the role of familiarity in kin discrimination.
Supervisor: Hatchwell, Ben J. ; Robinson, Elva J. H. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available