Group-size-dependent punishment of idle subordinates in a cooperative breeder where helpers pay to stay

Fischer, Stefan; Zöttl, Markus; Groenewoud, Frank; Taborsky, Barbara (2014). Group-size-dependent punishment of idle subordinates in a cooperative breeder where helpers pay to stay. Proceedings of the Royal Society. Series B - biological sciences, 281(1789), p. 20140184. Royal Society of London 10.1098/rspb.2014.0184

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In cooperative breeding systems, dominant breeders sometimes tolerate unrelated individuals even if they inflict costs on the dominants. According to the ‘pay-to-stay’ hypothesis, (i) subordinates can outweigh these costs by providing help and (ii) dominants should be able to enforce help by punishing subordinates that provide insufficient help. This requires that dominants can monitor helping and can recognize group members individually. In a field experiment, we tested whether cooperatively breeding cichlid Neolamprologus pulcher subordinates increase their help after a forced ‘idle’ period, how other group members respond to a previously idle helper, and how helper behaviour and group responses depend on group size. Previously idle helpers increased their submissiveness and received more aggression than control helpers, suggesting that punishment occurred to enforce help. Subordinates in small groups increased their help more than those in large groups, despite receiving less aggression. When subordinates were temporarily removed, dominants in small groups were more likely to evict returning subordinates. Our results suggest that only in small groups do helpers face a latent threat of punishment by breeders as predicted by the pay-to-stay hypothesis. In large groups, cognitive constraints may prevent breeders from tracking the behaviour of a large number of helpers.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)

Division/Institute:

08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Ecology and Evolution (IEE) > Behavioural Ecology
08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Ecology and Evolution (IEE)

UniBE Contributor:

Groenewoud, Frank and Taborsky, Barbara

Subjects:

500 Science > 590 Animals (Zoology)
500 Science > 570 Life sciences; biology

ISSN:

0962-8452

Publisher:

Royal Society of London

Language:

English

Submitter:

Karin Schneeberger

Date Deposited:

14 Feb 2017 10:31

Last Modified:

14 Feb 2017 10:31

Publisher DOI:

10.1098/rspb.2014.0184

PubMed ID:

24990673

BORIS DOI:

10.7892/boris.91489

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/91489

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