Genetic monogamy despite variable ecological conditions and social environment in the cooperatively breeding apostlebird

Miyako H. Warrington, Lee Ann Rollins, Nichola J. Raihani, Andrew F. Russell, Simon C. Griffith*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    5 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Mating strategies may be context-dependent and may vary across ecological and social contexts, demonstrating the role of these factors in driving the variation in genetic polyandry within and among species. Here, we took a longitudinal approach across 5 years (2006-2010), to study the apostlebird (Struthidea cinerea), an Australian cooperatively breeding bird, whose reproduction is affected by ecological "boom and bust" cycles. Climatic variation drives variation in the social (i.e., group sizes, proportion of males and females) and ecological (i.e., plant and insect abundance) context in which mating occurs. By quantifying variation in both social and ecological factors and characterizing the genetic mating system across multiple years using a molecular parentage analysis, we found that the genetic mating strategy did not vary among years despite significant variation in rainfall, driving primary production, and insect abundance, and corresponding variation in social parameters such as breeding group size. Group sizes in 2010, an ecologically good year, were significantly smaller (mean = 5.8 ± 0.9, n = 16) than in the drought affected years, between 2006 and 2008, (mean = 9.1 ± 0.5, n = 63). Overall, apostlebirds were consistently monogamous with few cases of multiple maternity or paternity (8 of 78 nests) across all years.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)4669-4682
    Number of pages14
    JournalEcology and Evolution
    Volume3
    Issue number14
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2013

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