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Data from: Paternal care and litter size coevolution in mammals

Cite this dataset

Stockley, Paula; Hobson, Liane (2016). Data from: Paternal care and litter size coevolution in mammals [Dataset]. Dryad.


Biparental care of offspring occurs in diverse mammalian genera, and is particularly common among species with socially monogamous mating systems. Despite numerous well-documented examples however, the evolutionary causes and consequences of paternal care in mammals are not well understood. Here we investigate the evolution of paternal care in relation to offspring production. Using comparative analyses to test for evidence of evolutionary associations between male care and life history traits, we explore if biparental care is likely to have evolved because of the importance of male care to offspring survival, or if evolutionary increases in offspring production are likely to result from the evolution of biparental care. Overall, we find no evidence that paternal care has evolved in response to benefits of supporting females to rear particularly costly large offspring or litters. Rather, our findings suggest that increases in offspring production are more likely to follow the evolution of paternal care, specifically where males contribute depreciable investment such as provisioning young. Through coevolution with litter size, we conclude that paternal care in mammals is likely to play an important role in stabilising monogamous mating systems and could ultimately promote the evolution of complex social behaviours.

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