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, 3 (4), 386-9

Fitness Increases With Partner and Neighbour Allopreening


Fitness Increases With Partner and Neighbour Allopreening

Sue Lewis et al. Biol Lett.


Altruism and selfishness are fundamental characteristics of human and animal societies. Among colonial biparental species, breeding outcome depends on interactions between mates and neighbours. However, the relationships between cooperation within and among partnerships and fitness have not been fully investigated. We show that in the highly colonial common guillemot (Uria aalge), altruistic behaviour (allopreening) towards a mate was positively related to long-term fitness, whereas allopreening a neighbour was related to current fitness. Turnover is much lower within than between pairs, so our results suggest that allopreening within pairs generates fitness returns at longer timescales than between pairs. Allopreening not only removes ectoparasites and maintains plumage condition, but may also have important social functions. We found a negative relationship between fight rate and allopreen rate between breeding neighbours, with nests exhibiting low breeding success having a higher frequency of fights with neighbours. We also found evidence for reciprocity in allopreening. Thus, allopreening may function as a reciprocal stress reducer, to decrease the likelihood of fights and associated breeding failure. We suggest that altruistic behaviour has long-term benefits for the survival of the offspring when living in a crowded neighbourhood.


Figure 1
Figure 1
Relationship between average rate of preening a mate (from the number of preens min−1) during changeovers between incubation shifts and the average breeding success for 33 pairs of guillemots.
Figure 2
Figure 2
Relationship between average rate (+s.e.) of preening neighbour (from the number of preens h−1) and breeding success, during day-long observations of nest sites with neighbours (n=10).

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