Habitat structure, mating behavior and social organisation in Liopholis whitii, an experimental test (#333)
The occurrence of kin-based social organisation represents a turning point in evolution whereby local genetic relatedness can be exploited to increase gene frequencies through behavioural cooperation with relatives. Insights into the factors responsible for both the diversity and stability of social systems are crucial for enhancing our understanding of key evolutionary processes. However the precise conditions that favour the origin and maintenance of sociality remain unclear. Both theoretical and empirical studies suggest that physical characteristics of the environment play a key role in mediating social complexity. Using experimental techniques in a semi-natural setting, we investigated how the physical structure of habitats influenced various aspects of social behavior in the social skink, Liopholis whitii. We show that habitat structure influences several key aspects of the social system, including rates of polygyny and male-female overlap, but does not affect pair bonding behaviour or rates of polyandry. We also present results from follow-up experiments investigating factors that mediate offspring dispersal and discuss our findings in the context of the origin and diversification of social complexity.