Turn-taking in cooperative offspring care: by-product of individual provisioning behavior or active response rule?

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Savage, James L.
Browning, Lucy E.
Manica, Andrea
Russell, Andrew F.
Johnstone, Rufus A.
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Springer Verlag
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For individuals collaborating to rear offspring, effective organization of resource delivery is difficult because each carer benefits when the others provide a greater share of the total investment required. When investment is provided in discrete events, one possible solution is to adopt a turn-taking strategy whereby each individual reduces its contribution rate after investing, only increasing its rate again once another carer contributes. To test whether turn-taking occurs in a natural cooperative care system, here we use a continuous time Markov model to deduce the provisioning behavior of the chestnut-crowned babbler (Pomatostomus ruficeps), a cooperatively breeding Australian bird with variable number of carers. Our analysis suggests that turn-taking occurs across a range of group sizes (2–6), with individual birds being more likely to visit following other individuals than to make repeat visits. We show using a randomization test that some of this apparent turn-taking arises as a by-product of the distribution of individual inter-visit intervals (“passive” turn-taking) but that individuals also respond actively to the investment of others over and above this effect (“active” turn-taking). We conclude that turn-taking in babblers is a consequence of both their individual provisioning behavior and deliberate response rules, with the former effect arising through a minimum interval required to forage and travel to and from the nest. Our results reinforce the importance of considering fine-scale investment dynamics when studying parental care and suggest that behavioral rules such as turn-taking may be more common than previously thought.
Cooperative breeding , Parental care , Provisioning rules , Reciprocity
Savage, J. L., Browning, L. E., Manica, A., Russell, A. F. and Johnstone, R. A. (2017) 'Turn-taking in cooperative offspring care: by-product of individual provisioning behavior or active response rule?', Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 71(11), 162 (10pp). doi: 10.1007/s00265-017-2391-4
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