Energetic Benefits of Sociality Offset the Costs of Parasitism in a Cooperative Mammal

Heike Lutermann*, Nigel C. Bennett, John R. Speakman, Michael Scantlebury

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

10 Citations (Scopus)
4 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Sociality and particularly advanced forms of sociality such as cooperative breeding (living in permanent groups with reproductive division of labour) is relatively rare among vertebrates. A suggested constraint on the evolution of sociality is the elevated transmission rate of parasites between group members. Despite such apparent costs, sociality has evolved independently in a number of vertebrate taxa including humans. However, how the costs of parasitism are overcome in such cases remains uncertain. We evaluated the potential role of parasites in the evolution of sociality in a member of the African mole-rats, the only mammal family that exhibits the entire range of social systems from solitary to eusocial. Here we show that resting metabolic rates decrease whilst daily energy expenditure and energy stores (i.e. body fat) increase with group size in social Natal mole rats (Cryptomys hottentotus natalensis). Critically, larger groups also had reduced parasite abundance and infested individuals only showed measurable increases in energy metabolism at high parasite abundance. Thus, in some circumstances, sociality appears to provide energetic benefits that may be diverted into parasite defence. This mechanism is likely to be self-reinforcing and an important factor in the evolution of sociality.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere57969
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalPloS ONE
Volume8
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 25 Feb 2013

Fingerprint

Mammals
Mole Rats
cooperatives
parasitism
Parasites
mammals
Costs and Cost Analysis
parasites
mole rats
Costs
Energy Metabolism
Vertebrates
Rats
Cryptomys
vertebrates
Basal Metabolism
resting metabolic rate
group size
energy expenditure
Causality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)

Cite this

Energetic Benefits of Sociality Offset the Costs of Parasitism in a Cooperative Mammal. / Lutermann, Heike; Bennett, Nigel C.; Speakman, John R.; Scantlebury, Michael.

In: PloS ONE, Vol. 8, No. 2, e57969, 25.02.2013, p. 1-8.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Lutermann, Heike ; Bennett, Nigel C. ; Speakman, John R. ; Scantlebury, Michael. / Energetic Benefits of Sociality Offset the Costs of Parasitism in a Cooperative Mammal. In: PloS ONE. 2013 ; Vol. 8, No. 2. pp. 1-8.
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