Inbreeding depresses altruism in a cooperative society

In some animal species, individuals regularly breed with relatives, including siblings and parents. Given the high fitness costs of inbreeding, evolutionary biologists have found it challenging to understand the persistence of these inbred societies in nature. One appealing but untested explanation is that early life care may create a benign environment that offsets inbreeding depression, allowing inbred societies to evolve. We test this possibility using 21 years of data from a wild cooperatively breeding mammal, the banded mongoose, a species where almost one in ten young result from close inbreeding. We show that care provided by parents and alloparents mitigates inbreeding depression for early survival. However, as adults, inbred individuals provide less care, reducing the amount of help available to the next generation. Our results suggest that inbred cooperative societies are rare in nature partly because the protective care that enables elevated levels of inbreeding can be reduced by inbreeding depression.


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Authors: Wells, David A., Cant, Michael A., Hoffman, Joseph I. ORCIDORCID record for Joseph I. Hoffman, Nichols, Hazel J., Baalen, Minus

1 October, 2020
Ecology Letters / 23
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