Delayed dispersal and the cost and benefits of different routes to independent breeding in a cooperative breeding bird

Sjouke A. Kingma, Kat Bebbington, Martijn Hammers, David S. Richardson, Jan Komdeur

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)
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Why sexually mature individuals stay in groups as non-reproductive subordinates is central to the evolution of sociality and cooperative breeding. To understand such delayed dispersal, its costs and benefits need to be compared with those of permanently leaving to float through the population. However, comprehensive comparisons, especially regarding differences in future breeding opportunities, are rare. Moreover, extra-territorial prospecting by philopatric individuals has generally been ignored, even though the factors underlying this route to independent breeding may differ from those of strict philopatry or floating. We use a comprehensive predictive framework to explore how various costs, benefits and intrinsic, environmental and social factors explain philopatry, prospecting and floating in Seychelles warblers (Acrocephalus sechellensis). Floaters more likely obtained an independent breeding position before the next season than strictly philopatric individuals, but also suffered higher mortality. Prospecting yielded similar benefits to floating but lower mortality costs, suggesting that it is overall more beneficial than floating and strict philopatry. Whereas prospecting is probably individual-driven, though limited by resource availability, floating likely results from eviction by unrelated breeders. Such differences in proximate and ultimate factors underlying each route to independent breeding highlight the need for simultaneous consideration when studying the evolution of delayed dispersal.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2595–2610
Issue number11
Early online date6 Oct 2016
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2016


  • cooperative breeding
  • benefits-of-philopatry
  • delayed dispersal
  • reproductive skew
  • ecological constraints
  • informed dispersal

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