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R Soc Open Sci. 2017 Jan 18;4(1):160897. doi: 10.1098/rsos.160897. eCollection 2017 Jan.

Climate and the distribution of cooperative breeding in mammals.

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Department of Zoology , University of Cambridge , Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EJ , UK.


Cooperative breeding systems, in which non-breeding individuals provide care for the offspring of dominant group members, occur in less than 1% of mammals and are associated with social monogamy and the production of multiple offspring per birth (polytocy). Here, we show that the distribution of alloparental care by non-breeding subordinates is associated with habitats where annual rainfall is low. A possible reason for this association is that the females of species found in arid environments are usually polytocous and this may have facilitated the evolution of alloparental care.


cooperative breeding; phylogenetic comparison; rainfall; sociality

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