Tuesday, May 18

Fathers and mothers who receive help live longer

Fathers and mothers who receive help live longer

Fathers and mothers who receive help live longer

New research has shown that in certain species of birds, fathers and mothers who are helped to care for their young live longer and increase their reproduction rate. The increase in the longevity of birds can reach two years, a time correlative to six years of human life.

In different species of birds with cooperative breeding habits, fathers and mothers are assisted during the young development stage. This increases the longevity of parents and increases the number of births, according to a joint study by scientists from the universities of Lund and Oxford. The benefits are seen equally on the female and male survival of breeders.

Although usually fatherhood and motherhood are socially idealized processes, in which apparently everything should be happiness and harmony, the reality is usually quite different. In everyday life, parenting presents different challenges and problems. And these drawbacks are not exclusive to the human being: they affect all species of living beings, to a greater or lesser extent.

A new study by researchers at Lund University in Sweden and Oxford University in England has shown that a great advantage during the rearing process is having willing and trained helpers. After studying 23 species of birds, they concluded that cooperative habits that include help for fathers and mothers generate notable benefits, both in terms of the survival of the parents and with respect to reproduction.

Fathers and mothers who live longer

According to a Press release, the research included the review of data accumulated in more than 9,000 previous studies on the subject, strengthening the solidity of the results obtained. According to the study, fathers and mothers who receive help during rearing live on average up to two years longer than expected for their species.

This increase in the survival of the birds would be similar to a period of six years in the life of a human being, according to what is indicated by the researchers. In addition, the scientists noted that the benefits are not exclusive to parents: cooperative parenting also increases the rate of reproduction. Consequently, parents live longer and also have more children.

According to those responsible for the study, recently published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, the main cause of these benefits is the reduction in the workload of parenting. By delegating part of the task to non-reproductive members of the community, parents They can dedicate themselves to producing new offspring, while lengthening their life.

Different behaviors

However, the specialists highlighted some differences that are observed in the animal world. Some species are more radical about the idea of ​​delegating breeding to caretakers, such as ants, termites, and rats. In these cases, the individuals dedicated to procreating almost completely forget their responsibilities as fathers or mothers, focusing only on generating more offspring.

The case of the birds studied, among which are the long tail boobs and the currucas, It is different. Cooperative parenting habits in this case do not exclude parental or maternal responsibility, but rather complement it through the help of other members of the community. In addition, the study has found that the skill of the helpers is also crucial: when they fail, the benefits on the survival of the parents and on the reproduction are diluted at the same time.

What can we learn from birds? It is clear that the current rhythm of human life forces parents and mothers to turn to different kinds of help while raising their children. According to scientists, the key to getting the most benefits is knowing how to delegate: with dedicated and competent helpers, parenting will become life learning and no longer a heavy daily burden.


Hard-working helpers contribute to long breeder lifespans in cooperative birds. Philip A. Downing, Ashleigh S. Griffin and Charlie K. Cornwallis. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B (2021).DOI:https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2019.0742

Photo: Juliane Liebermann en Unsplash.


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