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Sociality reduces individual direct fitness in a communally breeding rodent, the colonial tuco-tuco (Ctenomys sociabilis)

Sociality reduces individual direct fitness in a communally breeding rodent, the colonial tuco-tuco (Ctenomys sociabilis)

Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 56(5): 449-457

In many social vertebrates, remaining in the natal group leads to at least short-term reductions in the direct fitness of philopatric animals. Among communally breeding rodents, the direct fitness costs of philopatry appear to increase as the frequency of successful natal dispersal decreases, suggesting a functional link between constraints on natal dispersal and the reproductive consequences of sociality. To explore this relationship empirically, I documented patterns of direct fitness among female colonial tuco-tucos (Ctenomys sociabilis), which are group-living subterranean rodents from southwestern Argentina. Demographic data suggest that successful natal dispersal is rare in this species, leading to the prediction that natal philopatry in C. sociabilis is associated with significant reductions in individual direct fitness. Using data obtained during 1996-2001, I compared the direct fitness of females that dispersed from their natal group and bred alone as yearlings to that of females that lived and bred in their natal group as yearlings. Philopatric yearlings reared significantly fewer young to weaning than did disperser (lone) yearlings. Although neither survival to a second breeding season nor the estimated lifetime number of pups reared to weaning differed between dispersal strategies, the annual direct fitness of group-living females was 23-40% less than expected, suggesting that philopatric animals experienced a substantial direct fitness cost by remaining in their natal group. These data yield important insights into the adaptive bases for group living in C. sociabilis and suggest that constraints on natal dispersal are an important factor favoring group living in this species.

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Accession: 012565959

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DOI: 10.1007/s00265-004-0805-6

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