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Biol Lett. 2008 Aug 23;4(4):323-5. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2008.0191.

Successful same-sex pairing in Laysan albatross.

Author information

1
Ecology, Evolution and Conservation Biology Program, Department of Zoology, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA. lindsayc@hawaii.edu

Abstract

Unrelated same-sex individuals pairing together and cooperating to raise offspring over many years is a rare occurrence in the animal kingdom. Cooperative breeding, in which animals help raise offspring that are not their own, is often attributed to kin selection when individuals are related, or altruism when individuals are unrelated. Here we document long-term pairing of unrelated female Laysan albatross (Phoebastria immutabilis) and show how cooperation may have arisen as a result of a skewed sex ratio in this species. Thirty-one per cent of Laysan albatross pairs on Oahu were female-female, and the overall sex ratio was 59% females as a result of female-biased immigration. Female-female pairs fledged fewer offspring than male-female pairs, but this was a better alternative than not breeding. In most female-female pairs that raised a chick in more than 1 year, at least one offspring was genetically related to each female, indicating that both females had opportunities to reproduce. These results demonstrate how changes in the sex ratio of a population can shift the social structure and cause cooperative behaviour to arise in a monogamous species, and they also underscore the importance of genetically sexing monomorphic species.

PMID:
18505710
PMCID:
PMC2610150
DOI:
10.1098/rsbl.2008.0191
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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