Understanding the mechanism(s) that favour cooperation among individuals competing for the same resources provides direct insights into the evolution of grouping behaviour. In a hybrid zone between golden-/yellow-collared (Manacus vitellinus) and white-collared (Manacus candei) manakins, males form aggregations composed of white and yellow males solely to attract females (‘mixed leks’). Previous work shows that yellow males in these mixed leks experience a clear mating advantage over white males, resulting in the preferential introgression of yellow plumage allele(s) into the white species. However, the yellow male mating advantage only occurs in mixed leks with high frequencies of yellow males, and only a few of these males probably mate. Hence, it remains unclear why unsuccessful males join leks. Here, we used microsatellite markers to estimate pairwise relatedness among males within and between leks to test whether indirect genetic benefits of helping kin (‘kin selection’) can promote grouping. We found that yellow males are significantly more related to each other within than between leks, while relatedness among white males did not differ within and between leks. This suggests that yellow males may indirectly enhance their own reproductive success by preferentially lekking with relatives because yellow plumage is under positive frequency-dependent selection (positive FDS). Our results are consistent with the hypothesis that kin selection may promote grouping and facilitate positive FDS for yellow males, mediating the movement of yellow plumage across this hybrid zone.
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