Fitness costs of female competition linked to resource defense and relatedness of competitors

Fischer, Stefan, Duffield, Callum, Davidson, Amanda J, Bolton, Rhiannon, Hurst, Jane L ORCID: 0000-0002-3728-9624 and Stockley, Paula
(2023) Fitness costs of female competition linked to resource defense and relatedness of competitors. The American Naturalist, 201 (2). pp. 256-268.

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AbstractFemale reproductive success is often limited by access to resources, and this can lead to social competition both within and between kin groups. Theory predicts that both resource availability and relatedness should influence the fitness consequences of social competition. However, testing key predictions requires differentiating the effects of these two factors. Here, we achieve this experimentally by manipulating the social environment of house mice, a facultative communal breeding species with known kin discrimination ability. This allows us to investigate (1) the reproductive costs of defending a limited resource in response to cues of social competition and (2) whether such costs, or their potential mitigation via cooperative behavior, are influenced by the relatedness of competitors. Our results support the hypothesis that resource defense can be costly for females, potentially trading off against maternal investment. When the availability of protected nest sites was limited, subjects (1) were more active, (2) responded more strongly to simulated territory intrusions via competitive signaling, and (3) produced smaller weaned offspring. However, we found no evidence that the propensity for kin to cooperate was influenced by the relatedness of rivals. Communal breeding between sisters occurred independently of the relatedness of competitors and communally breeding sisters weaned fewer offspring when competing with unrelated females, despite our study being designed to prevent infanticide between kin groups. Our findings thus demonstrate that female competition has fitness costs and that associating with kin is beneficial to avoid negative fitness consequences of competing with nonkin, in addition to more widely recognized kin-selected benefits.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: social competition, kin selection, competitive signaling, cooperative breeding, resource competition, Mus musculus domesticus
Divisions: Faculty of Health and Life Sciences
Faculty of Health and Life Sciences > Institute of Infection, Veterinary and Ecological Sciences
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 04 Oct 2022 07:50
Last Modified: 11 Feb 2023 01:40
DOI: 10.1086/722513
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