The disperser dilemma in cooperatively breeding birds

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In most cooperatively breeding birds, individuals do not breed with their natal group members. In order to breed, they have either to disperse into another group or wait for an opposite-sex individual to join their group. In most of these species, females disperse more than males. We develop a dynamic game-theoretic model to account for this asymmetry. When males are physically larger/heavier than females, this allows them to effectively welcome female immigrants into their natal group and overcome the local females' opposition more than vice versa. The model further assumes that the dispersal decision is not confined to a restricted time window, but is rather based on acquired information and responsive to opportunities. The model predicts that (i) females disperse more than males, and (ii) females are willing to tolerate more risks in dispersal than do males. The latter prediction is supported inter alia by the fact that in many cooperatively breeding birds, females disperse at a younger age, and further away from their natal group as compared to dispersing males.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1539-1546
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Evolutionary Biology
Issue number10
Early online date13 Sep 2023
StatePublished - Oct 2023


  • continuously stable strategy
  • cooperatively breeding birds
  • sex-biased dispersal

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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