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Data from: Partner switching can favor cooperation in a biological market

Cite this dataset

Schwagmeyer, P. L. (2014). Data from: Partner switching can favor cooperation in a biological market [Dataset]. Dryad.


Intraspecific cooperation and interspecific mutualisms can be promoted by mechanisms that reduce the frequency with which cooperative organisms are exploited by unhelpful partners. One such mechanism consists of changing partners after interacting with an uncooperative individual. I used McNamara et al.'s (Nature, 451, 2008, 189) partner switching model as a framework to examine whether this mechanism can select for increased cooperative investment by house sparrows (Passer domesticus) collaborating to rear offspring; previous research on this species has shown that substantial cooperative investments by both pair members are required to achieve high pay-offs from collaborating. I found that the poorer the outcome of a breeding attempt relative to the number of eggs the female invested, the greater the likelihood of partner switching. The incidence of partner switching changed seasonally, with peak switching coinciding with an increase in the number of alternative partners available to females. After females switched partners, their breeding outcomes rose to match those of females that remained with the same partner; this was not the case for males that switched partners. Consistent with the model's prediction, males in stable partnerships achieved over 25% higher than average reproductive success, which was attributable to both persistently good breeding outcomes and their older partners' high fecundity. These results provide empirical support for the hypothesis that partner switching favours increased cooperative investment levels, and they demonstrate that variation in the relative value of by-product benefits can enhance that process.

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