Subordinate Seychelles warblers accurately maximise indirect benefits using a simple rule-of-thumb

D.S. Richardson, J. Komdeur, T. Burke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Citations (Scopus)


In cooperative breeding vertebrates, indirect fitness benefits would be maximized by subordinates that accurately assess their relatedness to group offspring and preferentially help more closely related kin. In the Seychelles warbler (Acrocephalus sechellensis), we found a positive relationship between subordinate-nestling kinship (determined using microsatellite marker genotypes) and provisioning rates, but only for female subordinates. Female subordinates that helped were significantly more related to the nestlings than were nonhelpers, and the decision to help appears to be based on associative learning cues. High levels of female infidelity means that subordinates cannot trust their legitimacy through the male line, consequently they appear to use the continued presence of the primary female, but not the primary male, as a reliable cue to determine when to feed nestlings. By using effective discrimination, female subordinates are able to maximize the indirect benefits gained within a cooperative breeding system otherwise driven primarily by direct breeding benefits.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)854-861
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Evolutionary Biology
Publication statusPublished - 2003

Cite this