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Data from: Are species differences in maternal effects arising from maternal care adaptive?

Cite this dataset

Benowitz, Kyle M.; Moody, Katherine J.; Moore, Allen J. (2014). Data from: Are species differences in maternal effects arising from maternal care adaptive? [Dataset]. Dryad.


Parental care benefits offspring through maternal effects influencing their development, growth and survival. However, although parental care in general is likely the result of adaptive evolution, it does not follow that specific differences in the maternal effects that arise from care are also adaptive. Here, we used an interspecific cross-fostering design in the burying beetle species Nicrophorus orbicollis and N. vespilloides, both of which have elaborate parental care involving direct feeding of regurgitated food to offspring, to test whether maternal effects are optimized within a species and therefore adaptive. Using a full-factorial design, we first demonstrated that N. orbicollis care for offspring longer regardless of recipient species. We then examined offspring development and mass in offspring reared by hetero- or conspecific parents. As expected, there were species-specific direct effects independent of the maternal effects, as N. orbicollis larvae were larger and took longer to develop than N. vespilloides regardless of caregiver. We also found significant differences in maternal effects: N. vespilloides maternal care caused more rapid development of offspring of either species. Contrary to expectations if maternal effects were species-specific, there were no significant interactions between caretaker and recipient species for either development time or mass, suggesting that these maternal effects are general rather than optimized within species. We suggest that rather than coadaptation between parents and offspring performance, the species differences in maternal effects may be correlated with direct effects, and that their evolution is driven by selection on those direct effects.

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