Michael Griesser, University of Zurich: Family living: the overlooked steppingstone to kin cooperation
13:00 - 14:00
Dr. Michael Griesser
Department of Anthropology, University of Zurich
Seminar Room House 4, Tea & Coffee 12:30h
Prof. Dr. Bart Kempenaers
Cooperative breeding is an extreme form of cooperation that evolved in birds, insects, fish, mammals, and humans. Although cooperative breeding in birds is well-studied, the conditions that favoured its evolution are still unclear. My presentation highlights the importance of family living for the evolution of cooperative breeding, explores its adaptive benefits, and assesses its life-history consequences. Phylogenetic comparative work showed that family living is a critical steppingstone for evolutionary transitions from pair breeding to cooperative breeding. The evolution of families is associated with productive environments, which facilitate prolonged parent-offspring associations. The subsequent evolution of cooperative breeding, however, is associated with environmental variability, where helpers can prevent reproductive failure in harsh years. My experiments with the family-living Siberian jay demonstrated that parents provide independent offspring with nepotistic food access, predator protection, and social learning opportunities to acquire vital life skills, for example to learn recognizing predators. Comparative work suggests that these benefits allow individuals in family living species to allocate more resources into their immune system or sexually selected traits. Thus, considering family living as an own social system changes our understanding of the evolution of sociality and cooperation, and provide novel insights into life-history evolution.