Social genetic and social environment effects on parental and helper care in a cooperatively breeding bird

Mark James Adams*, Matthew R. Robinson, Maria Elena Mannarelli, Ben J. Hatchwell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Phenotypes expressed in a social context are not only a function of the individual, but can also be shaped by the phenotypes of social partners. These social effects may play a major role in the evolution of cooperative breeding if social partners differ in the quality of care they provide and if individual carers adjust their effort in relation to that of other carers. When applying social effects models to wild study systems, it is also important to explore sources of individual plasticity that could masquerade as social effects. We studied offspring provisioning rates of parents and helpers in a wild population of long-tailed tits Aegithalos caudatus using a quantitative genetic framework to identify these social effects and partition them into genetic, permanent environment and current environment components. Controlling for other effects, individuals were consistent in their provisioning effort at a given nest, but adjusted their effort based on who was in their social group, indicating the presence of social effects. However, these social effects differed between years and social contexts, indicating a current environment effect, rather than indicating a genetic or permanent environment effect. While this study reveals the importance of examining environmental and genetic sources of social effects, the framework we present is entirely general, enabling a greater understanding of potentially important social effects within any ecological population.

Original languageEnglish
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1810
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015


  • Aegithalos caudatus
  • Associative effects
  • Cooperative breeding
  • Indirect genetic effects
  • Kin selection
  • Long-tailed tits


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