Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Science


Applied Mathematics


Dr. Geoff Wild


Cooperative breeding is a social behaviour in which certain individuals will opt to delay or forgo their own reproduction in order to help other individuals. Cooperative breeding is one of the most conspicuous examples of cooperation in nature. However, theoretical understanding of why this behaviour occurs is lacking and contradictory. In this thesis, I examine the role played by ecological constraints on the emergence of cooperative breeding. Contrary to previous results, I find that ecological constraints do matter, provided the population dynamics are properly accounted for. I also examine the long-term evolutionary dynamics of cooperative breeding, and obtain the optimal helping strategy from the perspective of both the helper and breeder. I relate existing emergence theory to the predicted trajectory of the optimal strategy, and examine the role of ecology and ecological constraints upon the optimal helping strategy.