Data from: Workforce effects and the evolution of complex sociality in wild Damaraland mole rats
Young, Andrew John; Jarvis, Jennifer U. M.; Barnaville, James; Bennett, Nigel C. (2015), Data from: Workforce effects and the evolution of complex sociality in wild Damaraland mole rats, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.1366f
Explaining the evolution of eusocial and cooperatively breeding societies demands that we understand the effects of workforce size on the reproductive success of breeders. This challenge has yet to be addressed in the family that arguably exhibits the most extreme outcomes of vertebrate social evolution, the African mole rats (Bathyergidae), leaving the ultimate causes of their many unusual adaptations open to debate. Here we report—using a 14-year field study of wild Damaraland mole rats, Fukomys damarensis—that workers appear to have strong but unusual effects on offspring. Groups with larger workforces exhibited substantially higher rates of offspring recruitment while maintaining high juvenile survival rates, relationships that may have favored the evolution of the delayed dispersal, cooperation, morphological specialization, and unusual patterns of longevity that characterize such societies. Offspring reared by larger workforces also showed slower growth, however. That reduced offspring growth in larger groups has also been documented under ad lib. food conditions in the laboratory raises the possibility that this reflects socially induced growth restraint rather than simple constraints on resource availability. Our findings shed new light on the evolution of complex sociality in this enigmatic clade and highlight further departures from the norms reported for other cooperative vertebrates.