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Proc Biol Sci. 2003 Nov 7;270(1530):2207-14.

Cooperative breeding in oscine passerines: does sociality inhibit speciation?

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  • 1Evolutionary Ecology Group, School of Botany and Zoology, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia.


Cooperative breeding in birds is much more prevalent than has been previously realized, occurring in 18.5% of oscine passerines known to have biparental care, and is the predominant social system of some ancient oscine clades. Cooperation is distributed unevenly in clades that contain both cooperative and pair breeders, and is usually confined to a few related genera in which it can be ubiquitous. Cooperative clades are species poor compared with pair-breeding clades, because pair breeders evolve migratory habits, speciate on oceanic islands and are more likely to have distributions spread across more than one biogeographic region. These differences reflect the increased capacity for colonization by pair breeders because their young disperse. Thus cooperative breeding has macroevolutionary consequences by restricting rates of speciation and macroecological implications by influencing the assembly of island and migrant faunas.

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