Infanticide and within-clutch competition select for reproductive synchrony in a cooperative bird

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6 Scopus citations


Reproduction among members of social animal groups is often highly synchronized, but neither the selective advantages nor the proximate causes of synchrony are fully understood. Here I investigate the evolution of hatching synchrony in the Greater Ani (Crotophaga major), a communally nesting bird in which several unrelated females contribute eggs to a large, shared clutch. Hatching synchrony is variable, ranging from complete synchrony to moderate asynchrony, and is determined by the onset of incubation of the communal clutch. Data from a 10-year field study indicate that individual reproductive success is highest in synchronous groups, and that nestlings that hatch in the middle of the hatching sequence are most likely to survive. Nestling mortality is high in asynchronous clutches because early-hatching nestlings are more likely to be killed by adult group members, whereas late-hatching nestlings are more likely to starve due competition with their older nest-mates. Therefore, the timing of hatching appears to be under stabilizing selection from infanticide and resource competition acting in concert. These results provide empirical support for models predicting that synchrony may evolve as an adaptive counter-strategy to infanticide, and they highlight the importance of competition in shaping the timing of reproduction in social groups.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1760-1769
Number of pages10
JournalEvolution; international journal of organic evolution
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


  • Communal nesting
  • Crotophaga major
  • hatch order
  • kin recognition
  • reproductive conflict
  • timing of reproduction


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