Cooperative breeding often results in unequal reproduction between dominant and subordinate group members. Transactional skew models attempt to predict how unequal reproduction can be before the groups themselves become unstable. A number of variants of transactional models have been developed, with a key difference being whether reproduction is controlled by one party or contested by all. It is shown here that ESS solutions for all situations of contested control over reproduction are given by the original tug-of-war model (TOW). Several interesting results follow. First, TOW can escalate enough to destabilize some types of groups. Particularly vulnerable are those that have low relatedness and gain little from cooperative breeding relative to solitary reproduction. Second, TOW can drastically reduce group productivity and especially the inclusive fitness of dominant individuals. Third, these results contrast strongly with those from variants of TOW models that include concessions to maintain group stability. Such models are shown to be special cases of the general and simpler TOW framework, and to have assumptions that may be biologically suspect. Finally, the overall analysis suggests that there is no mechanism within existing TOW framework that will prevent a costly struggle for reproductive control. Because social species rarely exhibit the high levels of aggression predicted by TOW models, alternative evolutionary mechanisms are considered that can limit conflict and produce more mutually beneficial outcomes. The further development of alternative models to predict patterns of reproductive skew are highly recommended.
Vol. 61 • No. 5
Vol. 61 • No. 5