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Contribution of males to brood care can compensate for their food consumption from a shared resource

Citation

Steiger, Sandra; Keppner, Eva M.; Ayasse, Manfred (2020), Contribution of males to brood care can compensate for their food consumption from a shared resource, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.j6q573n8z

Abstract

The sharing of the same food source among parents and offspring can be a driver of the evolution of family life and parental care. However, if all family members desire the same meal, competitive situations can arise, especially if resource depletion is likely. When food is shared for reproduction and the raising of offspring, parents have to decide whether they should invest in self-maintenance or in their offspring and it is not entirely clear how these two strategies are balanced. In the burying beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides, parents care for their offspring either bi- or uniparentally at a vertebrate carcass as the sole food source. The question of whether biparental care in this species offers the offspring a better environment for development compared with uniparental care has been the subject of some debate. We tested the hypothesis that male contribution to biparental brood care has a beneficial effect on offspring fitness but that this effect can be masked because the male also feeds from the shared resource. We show that a mouse carcass prepared by two Nicrophorus beetles is lighter compared with a carcass prepared by a single female beetle at the start of larval hatching and provisioning. This difference in carcass mass can influence offspring fitness when food availability is limited, supporting our hypothesis. Our results provide new insights into the possible evolutionary pathway of biparental care in this species of burying beetles.

Funding

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, Award: STE 1874/7‐1