Conditional adjustment of cooperativeness to the expected pay-off might be a useful strategy to avoid being exploited in public good situations. Parental care provided towards all offspring in a communal nest (containing offspring of several females) resembles a public good. Females indiscriminately caring for all young share the costs equally, but the pay-off may vary depending on their contribution to the joint nest (number of own offspring). Females with fewer offspring in the joint nest will be exploited and overinvest relative to their contribution. We experimentally created a situation of high conflict in communally nursing house mice, by using a genetic tool to create a difference in birth litter sizes. Females in the high conflict situation (unequal litter sizes at birth) showed a reduced propensity to give birth as part of a communal nest, therefore adjusting their cooperativeness to the circumstances.
- Received January 12, 2016.
- Accepted April 18, 2016.
- © 2016 The Author(s)
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