Data from: With a little help from my kin: barn swallow nestlings modulate solicitation of parental care according to nestmates’ need
Romano, Andrea et al. (2012), Data from: With a little help from my kin: barn swallow nestlings modulate solicitation of parental care according to nestmates’ need, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.86p42
In altricial species, offspring competing for access to limiting parental resources (e.g. food) are selected to achieve an optimal balance between the costs of scrambling for food, the benefits of being fed and the indirect costs of subtracting food to relatives. Since the marginal benefits of acquiring additional food decrease with decreasing levels of need, satiated offspring should be prone to favour access to food by their needy kin, thus enhancing their own indirect fitness, while concomitantly reducing costs of harsh competition with hungry broodmates. We tested this prediction in feeding trials of barn swallow (Hirundo rustica) nestlings by comparing begging behaviour and food intake of two similar-sized nestmates, one of which was food-deprived (FD). Non-food-deprived (NFD) offspring modulated begging intensity depending on their nestmate’s need: when competing with FD nestmates, NFD nestlings reduced both the intensity and frequency of begging displays compared to themselves in the control trial before food deprivation. Hence, NFD nestlings reduced their competitiveness to the advantage of FD nestmates, which obtained more feedings and showed a three-fold larger increase in body mass. Moderation of individual selfishness can therefore be adaptive in presence of a needier kin, because the indirect fitness benefits of promoting its condition can outweigh the costs of forgoing being fed, and because it limits the cost of begging escalation against a vigorous competitor.