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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2023

Egg components and offspring survival vary with group size and laying order in a cooperative breeder

Fortuna, Rita; Paquet, Matthieu; Biard, Clotilde; Elard, Loic; Ferreira, Andre C.; Leroux-Coyaux, Mathieu; Parenteau, Charline; Silva, LilianaR R.; Theron, Franck; Covas, Rita; Doutrelant, Claire


Prenatal resource allocation to offspring can be influenced by maternal environment and offspring value, and affect offspring survival. An important pathway for flexible maternal allocation is via egg components such as nutrients and hormones. In cooperative breeders, females with helpers may increase resource allocation to eggs-'differential allocation'-or reduce it-'load-lightening'. Yet, helper effects on egg composition have been poorly studied. Moreover, it is unknown how helpers' presence modulates laying order effects on egg content and survival. Here, we investigated how maternal allocation varied with group size and laying order in the cooperatively breeding sociable weaver (Philetairus socius). We estimated interactive effects of helpers and laying order on allocation to egg mass, yolk nutrients-yolk mass, proteins, lipids, carotenoids, vitamin A and vitamin E-and hormones-testosterone, androstenedione, and corticosterone. Results concurred with the 'differential allocation' predictions. Females with more helpers produced later-laid eggs with heavier yolks and more lipids, and laid eggs overall richer in lipids. Proteins, antioxidants, and hormones were not found to vary with helper number. We then analyzed how helper number modulated laying order effects on survival. Females with more helpers did not specifically produce later-laid eggs with higher survival, but eggs laid by females with more helpers were overall more likely to fledge. These findings show that some egg components (yolk mass, lipids) can positively vary according to females' breeding group size, which may improve offspring fitness.


Cooperative breeding; Differential allocation; Helpers; Laying order; Load-lightening

Published in

2023, Volume: 202, number: 1, pages: 129–142
Publisher: SPRINGER

      SLU Authors

    • Paquet, Matthieu

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