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Abstract

Recent studies have shown that differences in life history may lead to consistent inter-individual variation in behavioural traits, so-called behavioural syndromes, animal personalities or temperaments. Consistencies of behaviours and behavioural syndromes have mainly been studied in non-cooperative species. Insights on the evolution of cooperation could be gained from studying individual differences in life histories and behavioural traits. Kin selection theory predicts that if an individual’s reproductive ability is low, it had to aim at gaining inclusive fitness benefits by helping others. We tested this prediction in the cooperatively breeding cichlid Neolamprologus pulcher, by assessing reproductive parameters of adults that had been tested earlier for aggressiveness and for their propensity to assist breeders when they had been young (‘juveniles’). We found that juvenile aggression levels predicted the acceptance of a subordinate in the group when adult. Males which were aggressive as juveniles were significantly more likely to tolerate a subordinate in the group when compared with males which were peaceful as juveniles, whereas females which were more aggressive as juveniles tended to expel subordinates more often. Females produced significantly smaller clutches when paired to males which had helped more as a juvenile, despite the fact that adult males hardly provided direct brood care. There was no evidence that females with a high propensity to help when young, produced smaller clutches or eggs when adult, but they took longer to lay their first clutch when compared with females with a low propensity to help when young. These results suggest that variation in behavioural types might explain variation in cooperation, the extent of group-living and reproductive decisions.