Experimental evidence for fully additive care among male carers in the cooperatively breeding chestnut-crowned babbler
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from Elsevier via the DOI in this record.
Although theory developed to understand carer response rules in cooperative breeders typically predict partial compensation, where additional investment by one carer is optimally met by incomplete reductions by the other, fully additive care is a viable alternative under particular conditions. Primary amongst these conditions is an opportunity for both existing and additional carers to gain comparable fitness from contributing to rearing offspring. That, in a number of cooperative birds, at least one parent often maintains their level of contribution to offspring rearing independently of carer number is supportive, but experimental evidence is lacking. Here, in naturally occurring groups of the cooperatively breeding chestnut-crowned babblers (Pomatostomus ruficeps), we show that provisioning rates of male carers are insensitive to the number of other carers, resulting in total brood and per capita nestling provisioning rates increasing across the range of total carer numbers tested (i.e. 2-7). Further, remaining male carers failed to change their provisioning rates following the temporary removal of 1-3 carers for up to 36 h, leading to significant decreases in total brood and per capita nestling provisioning. We found no obvious evidence to suggest that carer removals were otherwise disruptive and confounded the opportunity for remaining cares to respond. Our results confirm the existence of strongly additive care in cooperative breeders, and corroborate recent theory predicting that such response rules will arise when all carers in a group have the potential to contribute similarly to offspring success.
We would like to thank Simon Griffith, Keith Leggett, and the Dowling family for logistical support. For help with fieldwork, we thank: Elena Berg, Elliot Capp, Matthew Creasey, Hannah Fitzjohn, Tom Harris, Sam Patrick, Niall Stopford and Beth Woodward. The project was funded by a Standard Grant from the Natural Environment Research Grant (NE/K005766) and Discovery Grants from the Australian Research Council (DP0774080 and DP1094295) to AFR. FYN was supported by an Endeavour Research Fellowship from the Australian Research Council during manuscript prep.
Animal Behaviour, 2016, Volume 115, pp.47-53