IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Monogamous dominant pairs monopolize reproduction in the cooperatively breeding pied babbler


  • Martha J. Nelson-Flower
  • Phil A.R. Hockey
  • Colleen O'Ryan
  • Nichola J. Raihani
  • Morné A. du Plessis
  • Amanda R. Ridley


Understanding how reproduction is partitioned between group members is essential in explaining the apparent reproductive altruism of cooperatively breeding systems. Here, we use genetic data from a population of cooperatively breeding pied babblers (Turdoides bicolor) to show that reproduction is highly skewed toward behaviorally dominant birds. Dominant birds monopolized reproduction, accounting for 95.2% of all chicks. Inbreeding avoidance appears to constrain subordinate reproduction because the rare incidences of subordinate reproduction occurred only with unrelated members of their groups. However, even when unrelated potential breeding partners were present in the group, subordinates rarely bred. Although half of chicks hatched into groups where subordinates could potentially breed, only 9.6% of these chicks had a subordinate parent, indicating that additional factors limit subordinate reproduction, such as reproductive conflict with dominants. Groups were highly kin structured and most subordinates were closely related to one another such that help was almost invariably directed toward close relatives. Consequently, helping in this species confers indirect fitness benefits on subordinates, which are likely to play an important role in the evolution and maintenance of cooperative helping behavior. Copyright 2011, Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Martha J. Nelson-Flower & Phil A.R. Hockey & Colleen O'Ryan & Nichola J. Raihani & Morné A. du Plessis & Amanda R. Ridley, 2011. "Monogamous dominant pairs monopolize reproduction in the cooperatively breeding pied babbler," Behavioral Ecology, International Society for Behavioral Ecology, vol. 22(3), pages 559-565.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:beheco:v:22:y:2011:i:3:p:559-565

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:oup:beheco:v:22:y:2011:i:3:p:559-565. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Oxford University Press) or (Christopher F. Baum). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.