Group-living in the southern anteater-chat Myrmecocichla formicivora.
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Group-living sets the scene for complex social behaviours such as cooperative breeding, and exploring the factors that shape group-living is crucial in understanding these behaviours. Here we describe some aspects of the ecology of a population of the facultative cooperative breeding southern anteater-chat (Myrmecocichla formicivora), a group living bird species endemic to southern Africa. We used data from a four year study of individually marked birds, with pedigrees completed using microsatellite genotyping. Southern anteater-chats live in groups of 2-5 individuals - a breeding pair and up to three additional none-breeders. These auxiliary birds were either retained offspring or unrelated individuals, and all birds in a group assisted by feeding at the nest. Our population had a skewed sex ratio of approximately 58% males to 42% females, yet the sex ratio of fledglings was equal, suggesting sex-biased mortality. Helpers were predominantly retained male offspring; however 21% of helpers were unrelated to either of the breeding pair. Southern anteater-chats appear to be non-territorial, with an apparent lack of aggression both within and between groups. Our study confirms that the southern anteater-chat is a facultative cooperative breeder, with both pair breeders and groups with helpers capable of fledging youngsters. We provide evidence suggesting that the breeding system of the southern anteater-chat is based on prompt female dispersal, and male philopatry due to an apparent shortage of mates, potential benefits of the natal site and possible high costs of floating. It appears that ecological constraints promoting delayed dispersal are reinforced by benefits gained from remaining philopatric.
Southern anteater-chat, cooperative breeding, social evolution, behavioural ecology, delayed dispersal, family living, Africa
Research subject Biology with specialization in Population Biology
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-179071OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-179071DiVA: diva2:544037