Monday, 27 February 2017

Those who help each other can invade harsher environments

Date: February 20, 2017
Source: Lund University

Through cooperation, animals are able to colonize harsher living environments that would otherwise be inaccessible, according to a new study from Lund University in Sweden, together with researchers in England and USA. The research community has long believed this was the other way around -- that species in tough environments had to cooperate to survive. As a result the established view of why animals cooperate is turned upside-down.

Some species of birds cooperate closely in the rearing of offspring. The older siblings appear to selflessly help their parents rear the youngest brood. This phenomenon is most common in species that live in harsh environments, where the climate is hot and rain is scarce.

For a long time, researchers believed that the harsh conditions have forced individuals to help because they can't breed on their own. It seems, however, the opposite is true -- that the cooperation evolves first, and this gives species a chance of successfully invading and surviving in more barren places.

"Cooperation appears to be an important prerequisite to colonization of arid habitats," says Charlie Cornwallis, biologist at the Faculty of Science at Lund University.

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