Immigrant Help in Chestnut Crowned Babbler Communities

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This research will analyze blood samples from a cooperatively breeding species endemic to Australia, the chestnut crowned babbler (Pomatostomus ruficeps). In cooperatively breeding species non-breeding adults help raise the offspring of other individuals. Although previous research has shown that in avian species, males often help more than females, these studies have focused on individuals related to the brood. However, in addition to being born into a group, individuals can also immigrate into groups they are unrelated to. Here, we present the relationship between immigrant sex and provisioning of unrelated offspring. To assess helping behavior (here, provisioning of the chicks), passive integrated transponder (PIT) tags were inserted into adults to track nest visits, which are associated with chick provisioning in this species. As chestnut crowned babblers are sexually monomorphic, I sex of all immigrants must be determined molecularly. We will then compare sex to helping among immigrants. We hypothesize that males immigrants will be more likely to help at the nest to gain future breeding opportunities. The conclusion of this study provides new information on the "rules" of cooperative behavior and will help determine the mechanisms by which this seemingly non-adaptive behavior has evolved.

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Andrea Liebl

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