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Faculty for Biology, Chemistry and Earth Sciences

Evolutionary Animal Ecology - Prof. Dr. Sandra Steiger

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Sahm, J; Prang, M; Steiger, S: Parent–offspring conflict and its outcome under uni-and biparental care, Scientific Reports, 12(1999) (2022), doi:https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-022-05877-6
Conflicts over parental investment are predicted to be common among family members, especially between parents and their offspring. Parent–offspring conflict has been studied in many brood-caring organisms, but whether its outcome is closer to the parental or offspring optimum is usually unknown, as is whether the presence of a second parent, a caring male partner, can affect the outcome. Here, we manipulated the initial brood size of single and paired female burying beetles to examine how many offspring are necessary to maintain parental care in the current brood. We found that mothers continued to invest in small broods even if their reproductive output would have been higher if they had discontinued their care and produced a second brood instead. Consequently, our data suggests that the offspring have the upper hand in the conflict. However, our results further show that paired females laid a second egg clutch more often and produced more offspring than single females, suggesting that the presence of a male partner shifts the conflict outcome towards the parental optimum. This latter result not only is a novel aspect of parent–offspring theory, but also represents an additional factor that might explain the evolution of biparental care.
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