The evolution of delayed dispersal and different routes to breeding in social birds

Sjouke A. Kingma*, Kat Bebbington, Niki Teunissen, Anne Peters, Jan Komdeur

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review

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Many animals live in stable groups, where sexually mature individuals delay dispersal and stay as nonbreeding subordinates, seemingly counter to their own evolutionary interests. Revealing what circumstances drive the evolution of delayed dispersal is central to understanding sociality, family living and cooperative breeding across the animal kingdom, but there is as yet no general consensus about the relative importance of the various ecological and social conditions and the reproductive benefits proposed to drive delayed dispersal. We argue that two components may facilitate further progress in this respect: firstly, full consideration of the various routes that individuals can follow to obtain an independent breeding position. Here, we provide a comprehensive review of these routes: inheritance of a natal territory, budding off part of the natal territory, shifting to a neighboring vacancy, making temporary prospecting trips throughout the population; or permanently leaving to float in search of a breeding position or to stage as subordinate in a non-natal territory. Second, we illustrate that in order to understand delayed dispersal, we need to consider that the fitness consequences of these different routes apply across the lifetime: as subordinate (e.g., benefits of philopatry and indirect fitness); while waiting or searching for a position; and after obtaining a breeding position. Overall, we conclude that by which route and under what circumstances individuals can obtain a breeding position must be considered in order to make more comprehensive inferences about the evolution of delayed dispersal, cooperative breeding and animal sociality as a whole.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAdvances in the Study of Behavior
EditorsMarc Naguib, Louise Barrett, Susan D. Healy, Jeff Podos, Leigh W. Simmons, Marlene Zuk
PublisherAcademic Press
Number of pages62
ISBN (Print)9780128245842
Publication statusPublished - Jan-2021

Publication series

NameAdvances in the Study of Behavior
ISSN (Print)0065-3454


  • Benefits of philopatry
  • Cooperative breeding
  • Delayed dispersal
  • Family living
  • Habitat saturation
  • Informed dispersal

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