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Habitat saturation, benefits of philopatry, relatedness, and the extent of co-operative breeding in a cichlid


  • Dik Heg
  • Susan Rothenberger
  • Roger Schürch


Co-operative breeding in vertebrates may emerge due to subordinates delaying dispersal when free breeding habitat is not available ('habitat saturation' hypothesis, HS). However, delayed dispersal might also be due to younger individuals postponing dispersal to when they are more competitively able or have more to gain from breeding independently ("benefits-of-philopatry" hypothesis, BP) or to when inclusive fitness benefits no longer outweigh the benefits from independent breeding ("kin selection" hypothesis, KS). Here, we show in three experiments that both HS and BP determine the extent of co-operative breeding in the cichlid Neolamprologus pulcher. Contrary to the KS, individuals significantly avoided settlement with related individuals, and an additional settlement experiment confirmed this result. Our results suggest that kin structure in these cichlids emerges from limits on dispersal, but if such barriers are absent, cichlids prefer to settle with unrelated individuals to maximize the benefits of direct reproductive participation. Copyright 2011, Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Dik Heg & Susan Rothenberger & Roger Schürch, 2011. "Habitat saturation, benefits of philopatry, relatedness, and the extent of co-operative breeding in a cichlid," Behavioral Ecology, International Society for Behavioral Ecology, vol. 22(1), pages 82-92.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:beheco:v:22:y:2011:i:1:p:82-92

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