Intermittent breeding is associated with breeding group turnover in a cooperatively breeding bird

Maria G. Smith, Christina Riehl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Intermittent breeding, in which an adult skips a breeding opportunity, can represent a non-adaptive constraint or an adaptive response to the tradeoff between current and future reproduction. In group-living animals, the social group may also affect the frequency of reproduction, but this possibility has received little attention. Here we use an 11-year data set to investigate intermittent breeding in the greater ani (Crotophaga major), a tropical bird that nests in stable breeding groups containing several unrelated co-breeding females. Population-wide, an average of 62% of females laid eggs in a given year (range 35–84%), and the average female failed to lay eggs once every 3.2 years. We found little support for the hypothesis that intermittent breeding reflects a tradeoff between current and future reproduction: breeding in year t did not affect a female’s likelihood of breeding in year t + 1, and clutch size in year t did not affect clutch size in year t + 1. Increases in clutch size were associated with decreases in egg mass for eggs laid at the end of that clutch, but this did not affect subsequent nesting attempts. However, reproductive skipping was associated with changes in group membership. Females whose groups changed in composition after year t were significantly less likely to breed in year t + 1 than females whose groups remained stable. These results indicate that breeding group stability influences the frequency of reproduction, suggesting that transitions between groups may be costly to females and their mates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)953-963
Number of pages11
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


  • Communal breeding
  • Group stability
  • Life history theory
  • Reproductive skipping
  • Skipped spawning


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