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Theory predicts that the evolution of cooperative behaviour is favoured by low levels of promiscuity leading to high within-group relatedness. However, in vertebrates, cooperation often occurs between non-relatives and promiscuity rates are among the highest recorded. Here we resolve this apparent inconsistency with a phylogenetic analysis of 267 bird species, demonstrating that cooperative breeding is associated with low promiscuity; that in cooperative species, helping is more common when promiscuity is low; and that intermediate levels of promiscuity favour kin discrimination. Overall, these results suggest that promiscuity is a unifying feature across taxa in explaining transitions to and from cooperative societies.

Original publication

DOI

10.1038/nature09335

Type

Journal article

Journal

Nature

Publication Date

19/08/2010

Volume

466

Pages

969 - 972

Keywords

Animals, Biological Evolution, Birds, Cooperative Behavior, Fathers, Female, Male, Models, Biological, Mothers, Phylogeny, Reproduction, Sexual Behavior, Animal, Siblings