Is the primary helper always a key group for the dynamics of cooperative birds? A mathematical study on cooperative breeding birds

Article Type

Research Article

Publication Title

Ecological Modelling


Cooperation is a fundamental requirement for the population dynamics of group-living organisms. Despite the substantial research work in cooperative breeding birds, the dependence of the population dynamics is unidentified on young or adult helpers in migratory populations. The existing mathematical models mostly ignore the migratory property for predicting the birds’ cooperative dynamics. The cooperative breeding birds have three groups in their population, viz, immature or primary helpers, mature or secondary helpers, and breeders. We ask three questions to study migratory cooperative birds’ population structure and dynamics through mathematical modeling under changing environments. Which group is the key to the population dynamics of cooperative migratory birds? Does the mature helper compensate young helpers’ helping? Does the hierarchical structure of the population vary for variable migratory rates? We explore the answers based on the mathematical model's simulation experiment, a potential alternative to the game theory approach. This study estimates the parameters associated with the proposed model through the field survey and obtains the rest from existing literature. Although the study uses blue-tailed bee-eater as the test-bed species, the model is helpful for analyzing other avian species’ behavioral property. The model as a tool can determine whether the primary helpers of blue-tailed bee-eater are the key to population dynamics. The model can also classify the adults’ help as an addition or compensate to primary helpers’ help. The model can predict any alteration in the cooperative breeding birds’ hierarchy sizes for variable migration rates under changing climate.



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