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Sibling Cooperation in Earwig Families Provides Insights into the Early Evolution of Social Life

Joachim Falk, Janine W. Y. Wong, Mathias Kölliker and Joël Meunier
The American Naturalist
Vol. 183, No. 4 (April 2014), pp. 547-557
DOI: 10.1086/675364
Stable URL:
Page Count: 11
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AbstractThe evolutionary transition from solitary to social life is driven by direct and indirect fitness benefits of social interactions. Understanding the conditions promoting the early evolution of social life therefore requires identification of these benefits in nonderived social systems, such as animal families where offspring are mobile and able to disperse and will survive independently. Family life is well known to provide benefits to offspring through parental care, but research on sibling interactions generally focused on fitness costs to offspring due to competitive behaviors. Here we show experimentally that sibling interactions also reflect cooperative behaviors in the form of food sharing in nonderived families of the European earwig, Forficula auricularia. Food ingested by individual offspring was transferred to their siblings through mouth-to-anus contacts and active allo-coprophagy. These transfers occurred in both the presence and the absence of the tending mothers, even though the direct contact with the mothers limited sibling food sharing. Neither food deprivation or relatedness influenced the total amount of transferred food, but relatedness affected frass release and the behavioral mechanisms mediating food sharing. Related offspring obtained food predominately through allo-coprophagy, whereas unrelated offspring obtained food through mouth-to-anus contacts. Overall, this study emphasizes that sibling cooperation may be a key process promoting the early evolution of social life.

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This item contains 61 references.

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