It has recently been argued that the paradox of helping behavior in birds has been solved (73). This optimism may be premature. I argue that there is no obvious dichotomy between cooperative societies based on natal philopatry and the formation of extended families, and those formed via recruitment of unrelated individuals into coalitions. Tests of the effect of helping behavior suggest that kinship may have been overemphasized for male helpers but underestimated for females. The first studies applying molecular techniques to resolve genealogy in these societies suggest that reproductive sharing occurs commonly across all types of social organization. Incest avoidance may be an important constraint on sharing in families, but molecular techniques have thus far been inappropriate to assess its importance. The interests of males and female helpers may be quite different because females often have less opportunity to inherit a territory vacancy on the death of the breeder, less opportunity to court mates by helping them, and less opportunity to share reproduction without perturbing the size of the brood. We still have only a weak understanding of sex biases in helping behavior.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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