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Cooperative breeding shapes post-fledging survival in an Afrotropical forest bird

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

For avian group living to be evolutionary stable, multiple fitness benefits are expected. Yet, the difficulty of tracking fledglings, and thus estimating their survival rates, limits our knowledge on how such benefits may manifest postfledging. We radio-tagged breeding females of the Afrotropical cooperatively breeding Placid greenbul (Phyllastrephus placidus) during nesting. Tracking these females after fledging permitted us to locate juvenile birds, their parents, and any helpers present and to build individual fledgling resighting datasets without incurring mortality costs or causing premature fledging due to handling or transmitter effects. A Bayesian framework was used to infer age-specific mortality rates in relation to group size, fledging date, maternal condition, and nestling condition. Postfledging survival was positively related to group size, with fledglings raised in groups with four helpers showing nearly 30% higher survival until independence compared with pair-only offspring, independent of fledging date, maternal condition or nestling condition. Our results demonstrate the importance of studying the early dependency period just after fledging when assessing presumed benefits of cooperative breeding. While studying small, mobile organisms after they leave the nest remains highly challenging, we argue that the telemetric approach proposed here may be a broadly applicable method to obtain unbiased estimates of postfledging survival.
ISSN: 2045-7758
Issue: 10
Volume: 7
Pages: 3489 - 3493
Publication year:2017
BOF-publication weight:0.1
CSS-citation score:1
Authors from:Higher Education