Breeders that receive help age more slowly in a cooperatively breeding bird

Martijn Hammers, Sjouke Kingma, Lewis Spurgin, Kathryn Bebbington, Hannah Dugdale, Terry Burke, Jan Komdeur, David S Richardson

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Helping by group members is predicted to lead to delayed senescence by affecting the trade-off between current reproduction and future survival for dominant breeders. We investigate this prediction in Seychelles warblers Acrocephalus sechellensis, in which mainly female subordinate helpers (both co-breeders and non-breeding helpers) often help dominants raise offspring. We find that the late-life decline in survival usually observed in this species is greatly reduced in female dominants when a helper is present. Female dominants with a female helper show reduced telomere attrition, a measure that reflects biological ageing in this and other species. Finally, the probability of having female, but not male, helpers increases with dominant female age. Our results suggest that delayed senescence is a key benefit of cooperative breeding for elderly dominants, and support the idea that sociality and delayed senescence are positively self-reinforcing. Such an effect may help explain why social species often have longer lifespans.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1301
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 21 Mar 2019

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