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Density-dependent dispersal strategies in a cooperative breeder


Maag, Nino; Cozzi, Gabriele; Clutton-Brock, Tim; Ozgul, Arpat (2018). Density-dependent dispersal strategies in a cooperative breeder. Ecology, 99(9):1932-1941.

Abstract

Dispersal is a key ecological process that influences the dynamics of spatially and socially structured populations and consists of three stages—emigration, transience, and settlement—and each stage is influenced by different social, individual, and environmental factors. Despite our appreciation of the complexity of the process, we lack a firm empirical understanding of the mechanisms underlying the different stages. Here, using data from 65 GPS‐collared dispersing female coalitions of the cooperatively breeding meerkat (Suricata suricatta), we present a comprehensive analysis of the effects of population density, mate availability, dispersing coalition size, and individual factors on each of the three stages of dispersal in a wild population. We expected a positive effect of density on dispersal due to increased kin competition at high densities. We further anticipated positive effects of mate availability, coalition size, and body condition on dispersal success. We observed increasing daily emigration and settlement probabilities at high population densities. In addition, we found that emigration and settlement probabilities also increased at low densities and were lowest at medium densities. Daily emigration and settlement probabilities increased with increasing female coalition size and in the presence of unrelated males. Furthermore, the time individuals spent in the transient stage increased with population density, whereas coalition size and presence of unrelated males decreased dispersal distance. The observed nonlinear relationship between dispersal and population density is likely due to limited benefits of cooperation at low population densities and increased kin competition at high densities. Our study provides empirical validation for the theoretical predictions that population density is an important factor driving the evolution of delayed dispersal and philopatry in cooperative breeders.

Abstract

Dispersal is a key ecological process that influences the dynamics of spatially and socially structured populations and consists of three stages—emigration, transience, and settlement—and each stage is influenced by different social, individual, and environmental factors. Despite our appreciation of the complexity of the process, we lack a firm empirical understanding of the mechanisms underlying the different stages. Here, using data from 65 GPS‐collared dispersing female coalitions of the cooperatively breeding meerkat (Suricata suricatta), we present a comprehensive analysis of the effects of population density, mate availability, dispersing coalition size, and individual factors on each of the three stages of dispersal in a wild population. We expected a positive effect of density on dispersal due to increased kin competition at high densities. We further anticipated positive effects of mate availability, coalition size, and body condition on dispersal success. We observed increasing daily emigration and settlement probabilities at high population densities. In addition, we found that emigration and settlement probabilities also increased at low densities and were lowest at medium densities. Daily emigration and settlement probabilities increased with increasing female coalition size and in the presence of unrelated males. Furthermore, the time individuals spent in the transient stage increased with population density, whereas coalition size and presence of unrelated males decreased dispersal distance. The observed nonlinear relationship between dispersal and population density is likely due to limited benefits of cooperation at low population densities and increased kin competition at high densities. Our study provides empirical validation for the theoretical predictions that population density is an important factor driving the evolution of delayed dispersal and philopatry in cooperative breeders.

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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)
Uncontrolled Keywords:Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
Language:English
Date:1 September 2018
Deposited On:08 Mar 2019 10:19
Last Modified:25 Sep 2019 00:26
Publisher:Ecological Society of America
ISSN:0012-9658
Additional Information:Copyright by the Ecological Society of America
OA Status:Green
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1002/ecy.2433
Project Information:
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant IDCR32I3_159743
  • : Project TitleEco-evolutionary mechanisms and demographic consequences of dispersal in socially structured populations
  • : FunderFP7
  • : Grant ID294494
  • : Project TitleTHCB2011 - The evolution and development of cooperation in mammalian societies

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