Emu Emu Society
Journal of BirdLife Australia
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Age, sex and social influences on adult survival in the cooperatively breeding Karoo Scrub-robin

Penn Lloyd A B G , Thomas E. Martin C , Andrew Taylor A D , Anne Braae A E and Res Altwegg F
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Percy FitzPatrick Institute, Department of Science and Technology/National Research Foundation Centre of Excellence, University of Cape Town, Private Bag X3, Rondebosch, 7701, South Africa.

B Present address: Biodiversity Assessment and Management Pty Ltd, PO Box 1376, Cleveland, Qld 4163, Australia.

C United States Geological Survey Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, University of Montana, Missoula, MT 59812, USA.

D Present address: Endangered Wildlife Trust, Private Bag X11, Modderfontein, 1609, Johannesburg, South Africa.

E Present address: Translational Cell Sciences, School of Life Sciences, University of Nottingham, Queen’s Medical Centre, Nottingham NG7 2UH, UK.

F Centre for Statistics in Ecology, Environment and Conservation, Department of Statistical Sciences, and African Climate and Development Initiative, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch 7701, South Africa.

G Corresponding author. Email: penn@baamecology.com

Emu 116(4) 394-401 https://doi.org/10.1071/MU15076
Submitted: 24 July 2015  Accepted: 6 June 2016   Published: 13 July 2016

Abstract

Among cooperatively breeding species, helpers are hypothesised to increase the survival of breeders by reducing breeder workload in offspring care and increased group vigilance against predators. Furthermore, parental nepotism or other benefits of group living may provide a survival benefit to young that delay dispersal to help. We tested these hypotheses in the Karoo Scrub-robin (Cercotrichas coryphaeus), a long-lived, and facultative cooperatively breeding species in which male helpers make substantial contributions to the care of young. We found that annual breeder survival in the presence of helpers did not differ detectably from breeders without helpers or breeders that lost helpers. Furthermore, helpers did not gain a survival benefit from deferred breeding; apparent survival did not differ detectably between male helpers and male breeders followed from one year old. These results are consistent with other studies suggesting a lack of adult survival benefits among species where breeders do not substantially reduce workloads when helpers are present. They are also consistent with the hypothesis that males that delay dispersal make the ‘best of a bad job’ by helping on their natal territory to gain indirect fitness benefits when they are unable to obtain a territory vacancy nearby.

Additional keywords: cost of reproduction, delayed dispersal, juvenile survival, life history.


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