Social groups in which some individuals forgo their own reproduction and cooperate with others present a number of paradoxes, since it is not immediately apparent how selection preserves the genes that underlie non-breeding strategies. While this question has usually been investigated in birds, mammals and social insects, new advances have been made by studying coral reef fishes. Buston and Wong have found that in both the clown anemonefish and the emerald coral goby, non-breeders will tolerate their position because they stand to inherit breeding positions, and because there are ecological and social constraints. Also, breeders gain no obvious benefits from the presence of non-breeders, leaving us with the question: why do breeders tolerate non-breeders? I am currently working with both investigators on both systems, along with Mike Cant, to tackle that question using molecular approaches, long-term field experiments, and theoretical modeling. This, in turn, is laying the foundations for a number of other interesting projects.
Photo credit: T. Rueger
Rueger, T., Bhardwaj, A. K., Turner, E., Barbasch, T. A., Trumble, I., Dent, B., & Buston, P. M. (2022). Vertebrate growth plasticity in response to variation in a mutualistic interaction. Scientific Reports, 12, 1-8.
Buston, P., Branconi, R., Rueger, T. Social Evolution: Formation, Maintenance, and Transformation of Social Groups. In: Evolution, Development and Ecology of Anemonefishes: Model Organisms for Marine Science (eds. V. Laudet & T. Ravasi)
Reproductive control in clown anemonefish
Animal Behavior Society conference 2020
Cooperation and conflict in size hierarchies
Animal Behaviour Society conference 2021
Vertebrate growth in response to mutualism
Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology conference 2021