Inclusive fitness benefits have been suggested to be a major selective force behind the evolution of cooperative breeding. We investigated the fitness benefits selecting for cooperative breeding in the Seychelles warbler, Acrocephalus sechellensis. A microsatellite-based genotyping method was used to determine the relatedness of subordinates to group offspring in an isolated population of Seychelles warblers. The indirect and direct breeding benefits accruing to individual subordinates were then calculated for every successful breeding event over a three-year period. We show that female subordinates frequently gained parentage and that this, combined with high levels of extragroup paternity, resulted in low levels of relatedness between subordinates and nondescendent offspring within a territory. Direct breeding benefits were found to be significantly higher than indirect kin benefits for both female and male subordinates. As predicted, female subordinates gained significantly more direct breeding opportunities and therefore higher inclusive fitness benefits by being a subordinate within a group than did males. This may explain why most subordinates in the Seychelles warbler are female.
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Vol. 56 • No. 11