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Aggregation and dispersal based on social cues as a nest-site selection strategy in a resource-defence polygynandry mating system

Stephen Heap, Phillip G. Byrne
Behavioral ecology and sociobiology 2013 v.67 no.4 pp. 685-697
animals, eggs, females, males, mating systems, mortality, nesting sites, nests, polyandry, polygyny, risk
Many animals must choose a nest site in order to reproduce. However, it is unclear how nest-site selection strategies vary across different mating systems. We must therefore explore nest-site selection strategies in a range of mating systems, including the interaction between resource-defence polygyny and polyandry (i.e. polygynandry). In this study, we imposed a re-settlement event in the terrestrial toadlet Pseudophryne bibronii and measured the influence of the spatial position of each male’s nest site with respect to rival males on the likelihood that it would be abandoned or receive eggs. We captured every calling male in a population, measured their breeding success and released them back into the breeding area. We then recorded the establishment and abandonment of nest sites by males over 26 consecutive nights. Spatial positioning did not have any significant effects on male-breeding success, supporting claims that females show less discrimination between nest sites when they are polyandrous and spread their eggs amongst multiple male nests. However, we found that males consistently selected nest sites according to a site’s spatial position, which suggests that fitness benefits unrelated to male breeding success (e.g. reduced mortality risk) might influence male nesting decisions. Overall, our study provides new evidence that the mating system adopted by a population can influence the cues that individuals respond to when selecting nest sites.