Helping at the nest in European Bee-eaters: Who helps and why?

European Bee-eater (Merops apiaster) Science Article 6

abstract

Avian cooperative breeding has been regarded as an ideal system in which to investigate the role of kin selection in the evolution of altruistic behaviour (Brown 1987). However, many studies of helping at the nest have been carried out on communally breeding species in which the costs and benefits of helping behaviour are confounded with joint exploitation or defense of a territory. In contrast, helping behaviour in European Bee-eaters Merops apiaster is not associated with territoriality, allowing the relative roles of individual (direct) and kin (indirect) selection to be more readily assessed. This paper first provides an overview of helping behaviour and second concentrates on the types of individuals who become helpers and the selection pressures that favour helping by them.

C.M. Lessells, NATO AS! Series, Vol. G 24

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