Co-operation enhances female cichlids’ chances of reproductive success

May 16th, 2009 - 3:27 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, May 16 (ANI): Studying small groups of cichlids to understand why females help raise the dominant pair’s offspring, scientists at the University of Bern have said that here exists no evidence to support the belief that female cichlids engage in reciprocal altruism.

Lead researcher Dik Heg instead says that female cichlids help raise the offspring of unrelated dominant females because this actually enhances their own chances of successfully reproducing.

The researchers say that their study showed no correlation between the amount of care that dominants provided for their subordinates’ broods and subordinates’ alloparental care for dominants’ broods.

They, however, said that while reciprocal altruism did not occur, the subordinate cichlids did receive reciprocal benefits in exchange for the care they provided for the offspring of dominant pairs-a behaviour that enhanced their own chances of successfully reproducing.

According to them, a subordinate’s helping behaviour ensures that she gains access to the breeding substrate, on which she lays her eggs.

Heg and colleagues show that subordinates may be prepared to increase their care “payments” in return for enhancements in their own current reproductive potential. They call it the “pay-to-reproduce” hypothesis.

The researchers believe that their observations may be applied to other species too, such as the female yellow-bellied marmot that also adjusts its social behaviour largely to get access to direct reproduction.

The study has been published in the online, open-access journal PLoS ONE. (ANI)

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