The oxidative costs of reproduction are group-size dependent in a wild cooperative breeder.
Cram, Dominic Laurence
Blount, Jonathan D.
Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
The Royal Society
© 2015 The Authors. Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/, which permits unrestricted use, provided the original author and source are credited.
Life-history theory assumes that reproduction entails a cost, and research on cooperatively breeding societies suggests that the cooperative sharing of workloads can reduce this cost. However, the physiological mechanisms that underpin both the costs of reproduction and the benefits of cooperation remain poorly understood. It has been hypothesized that reproductive costs may arise in part from oxidative stress, as reproductive investment may elevate exposure to reactive oxygen species, compromising survival and future reproduction and accelerating senescence. However, experimental evidence of oxidative costs of reproduction in the wild remains scarce. Here, we use a clutch-removal experiment to investigate the oxidative costs of reproduction in a wild cooperatively breeding bird, the white-browed sparrow weaver, Plocepasser mahali. Our results reveal costs of reproduction that are dependent on group size: relative to individuals in groups whose eggs were experimentally removed, individuals in groups that raised offspring experienced an associated cost (elevated oxidative damage and reduced body mass), but only if they were in small groups containing fewer or no helpers. Furthermore, during nestling provisioning, individuals that provisioned at higher rates showed greater within-individual declines in body mass and antioxidant protection. Our results provide rare experimental evidence that reproduction can negatively impact both oxidative status and body mass in the wild, and suggest that these costs can be mitigated in cooperative societies by the presence of additional helpers. These findings have implications for our understanding of the energetic and oxidative costs of reproduction, and the benefits of cooperation in animal societies.
, Vol. 282, issue 1819
Place of publication