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Keywords:

  • cooperative breeding;
  • dominance;
  • helper;
  • Malurus;
  • reproductive queue

Summary

  • 1
    Subordinate helpers in cooperative societies may gain both immediate and future benefits, including paternity and territorial inheritance. However, if such opportunities correlate with rank in the queue, it is unclear why such queues should be stable.
  • 2
    In cooperatively breeding superb fairy-wrens Malurus cyaneus, only males are generally philopatric, and form stable hierarchical queues for the dominant position.
  • 3
    Male opportunities for reproduction are influenced both by their dominance status within the group, and their relatedness to the breeding female. For young queuing subordinates, the breeding female is typically their mother. Because of incest avoidance, reproduction is possible only through extra-group mating, even if the dominant position is achieved while the mother is still on the territory. If the mother dies while the helper is still a subordinate, he can seek matings both outside the group, and with the unrelated replacement female within the group. Finally, males can achieve the dominant position and pair with an unrelated female by inheritance, dispersal to a neighbouring vacancy, or by forming a liaison with an immigrant subordinate female that causes fission of the natal territory.
  • 4
    On average males spent more time living with unrelated females than with their mother. Subordinate males gained no survival advantages when living with their mother rather than an unrelated female, contrary to the prediction that parents facilitate the survival of their offspring.
  • 5
    Dominants and subordinates also had similar survival. Mortality accelerated over time, probably because older males invest more in extra-group courtship display.
  • 6
    Fairy-wren queues are likely to be stable because older birds are superior, and because extra-pair mating provides direct benefits to subordinates.