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Uncertainty drives the evolution of 'cooperative breeding' in birds
Date:8/16/2007

as far back as 147 years ago.

They found evidence that different starling species have independently evolved the cooperative breeding system upon moving to savannas, where they showed that the amount of year-to-year variation in rainfall is greatest. Rubensteins group suggested that cooperative breeding is probably advantageous in environments that vary over time because it allows for reproduction in harsh years, as well as sustained breeding during benign years.

Such a strategy might become more widespread in an increasingly uncertain future, the researchers suggested.

Some researchers have argued that climate change will lead to greater temporal environmental variability, Rubenstein said. That is, we might expect more extreme weather like severe droughts and devastating floods, and ultimately more variable environments than we see now. If this increase in variability occurs, many species of animalsincluding humanswill have to adapt to the increasing unpredictability of their environments. By studying how animals have already adapted to temporally variable and unpredictable environments, we can gain insights into how social behavior may change in the wake of climate change.


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Contact: Nancy Wampler
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617-386-2121
Cell Press
Source:Eurekalert

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