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Data from: Cues of maternal condition influence offspring selfishness


Wong, Janine W. Y.; Lucas, Christophe; Kölliker, Mathias (2015), Data from: Cues of maternal condition influence offspring selfishness, Dryad, Dataset,


The evolution of parent-offspring communication was mostly studied from the perspective of parents responding to begging signals conveying information about offspring condition. Parents should respond to begging because of the differential fitness returns obtained from their investment in offspring that differ in condition. For analogous reasons, offspring should adjust their behavior to cues/signals of parental condition: parents that differ in condition pay differential costs of care and, hence, should provide different amounts of food. In this study, we experimentally tested in the European earwig (Forficula auricularia) if cues of maternal condition affect offspring behavior in terms of sibling cannibalism. We experimentally manipulated female condition by providing them with different amounts of food, kept nymph condition constant, allowed for nymph exposure to chemical maternal cues over extended time, quantified nymph survival (deaths being due to cannibalism) and extracted and analyzed the females’ cuticular hydrocarbons (CHC). Nymph survival was significantly affected by chemical cues of maternal condition, and this effect depended on the timing of breeding. Cues of poor maternal condition enhanced nymph survival in early broods, but reduced nymph survival in late broods, and vice versa for cues of good condition. Furthermore, female condition affected the quantitative composition of their CHC profile which in turn predicted nymph survival patterns. Thus, earwig offspring are sensitive to chemical cues of maternal condition and nymphs from early and late broods show opposite reactions to the same chemical cues. Together with former evidence on maternal sensitivities to condition-dependent nymph chemical cues, our study shows context-dependent reciprocal information exchange about condition between earwig mothers and their offspring, potentially mediated by cuticular hydrocarbons.

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