Helping your parents to help yourself
Evolution of Cooperative Breeding in Florida Scrub-Jays
Young scrub-jays often spend the first several years of their lives as “helpers” at their family group. They help their parents raise offspring and defend the territory. How did this behavior evolve? Why help when you can reproduce on your own? We use our long-term nesting and dispersal data, and ongoing behavioral ecology experiments to understand how cooperation evolves in social animals with scrub-jays as a model system.
Major Findings & Impact
The study of cooperative breeding in Florida Scrub-Jays is a well-known model system in the evolution of cooperative breeding and features in several Behavioral Ecology textbooks. It is one of the few systems where helpers confer a clear pattern of fitness advantage for breeders.
More about this project
Data and Analysis Types
Monthly censuses for groups, group composition, parentage and pedigree for over 6000 individuals, annual territory sizes during breeding season
Archbold Biological Station
" The Florida scrub-jay is a singular-nesting species in which pre-breeding off spring typically remain in the natal territory for a minimum of one year, living as a cooperative family group with their parents or stepparents. These features make the Florida scrub-jay “blessedly simple” as a model species exhibiting an early stage along what we presume to be an evolutionary track toward more complex cooperative-breeding social systems"