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Socially mediated polyandry: a new benefit of communal nesting in mammals


Auclair, Yannick; König, Barbara; Lindholm, Anna K (2014). Socially mediated polyandry: a new benefit of communal nesting in mammals. Behavioral Ecology:1-7.

Abstract

In many species, females have evolved behavioral strategies to reduce the risk of infanticide. For instance, polyandry can create paternity confusion that inhibits males from killing offspring they could have sired. Here, the authors propose that females could socially obtain the same benefits by nesting communally. Singly sired litters could be perceived as a large multiply sired litter once pooled together in a single nest. Long-term data from a wild house mouse population showed that monandrous litters (singly sired) were more common in communal than in solitary nests and 85% of them were raised with litters sired by different males hence becoming effectively polyandrous (multiply sired). These socially polyandrous litters had significantly higher offspring survival than genetically or socially monandrous litters and reached a similar survival to that of multiply sired litters raised in solitary or communal nests. Furthermore, the number of sires within nests significantly improved offspring survival whereas the number of mothers did not. These results suggest that the survival benefits associated with communal nesting are driven by polyandry and not communal defense. This socially mediated polyandry was as efficient as multiple paternity in preventing infanticide, and may also occur in other infanticidal and polytocous species where the caring parent exhibits social behavior.

Abstract

In many species, females have evolved behavioral strategies to reduce the risk of infanticide. For instance, polyandry can create paternity confusion that inhibits males from killing offspring they could have sired. Here, the authors propose that females could socially obtain the same benefits by nesting communally. Singly sired litters could be perceived as a large multiply sired litter once pooled together in a single nest. Long-term data from a wild house mouse population showed that monandrous litters (singly sired) were more common in communal than in solitary nests and 85% of them were raised with litters sired by different males hence becoming effectively polyandrous (multiply sired). These socially polyandrous litters had significantly higher offspring survival than genetically or socially monandrous litters and reached a similar survival to that of multiply sired litters raised in solitary or communal nests. Furthermore, the number of sires within nests significantly improved offspring survival whereas the number of mothers did not. These results suggest that the survival benefits associated with communal nesting are driven by polyandry and not communal defense. This socially mediated polyandry was as efficient as multiple paternity in preventing infanticide, and may also occur in other infanticidal and polytocous species where the caring parent exhibits social behavior.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
590 Animals (Zoology)
Language:English
Date:2014
Deposited On:03 Sep 2014 13:31
Last Modified:27 Apr 2017 21:11
Publisher:Oxford University Press
ISSN:1045-2249
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1093/beheco/aru143

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