Consistent cooperation in a cichlid fish is caused by maternal and developmental effects rather than heritable genetic variation.
Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
© 2017 The Authors. Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.
Studies on the evolution of cooperative behaviour are typically confined to understanding its adaptive value. It is equally essential, however, to understand its potential to evolve, requiring knowledge about the phenotypic consistency and genetic basis of cooperative behaviour. While previous observational studies reported considerably high heritabilities of helping behaviour in cooperatively breeding vertebrates, experimental studies disentangling the relevant genetic and non-genetic components of cooperative behaviour are lacking. In a half-sibling breeding experiment, we investigated the repeatability and heritability of three major helping behaviours performed by subordinates of the cooperatively breeding fishNeolamprologus pulcherTo experimentally manipulate the amount of help needed in a territory, we raised the fish in two environments differing in egg predation risk. All three helping behaviours were significantly repeatable, but had very low heritabilities. The high within-individual consistencies were predominantly due to maternal and permanent environment effects. The perceived egg predation risk had no effect on helping, but social interactions significantly influenced helping propensities. Our results reveal that developmentally plastic adjustments of provided help to social context shape cooperative phenotypes, whereas heritable genetic variation plays a minor role.
Funding was provided by the ‘ProDoc’ program of the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF, projects PDFMP3_137196 and 31003A_156881 to B.T.), and the ‘120% support grant’ to C.K. of the University of Bern.
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from Royal Society via the DOI in this record.
Vol. 284 (1858), 20170369.
Place of publication