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Data from: Unbalanced biparental care during colony foundation in two subterranean termites

Cite this dataset

Brossette, Lou et al. (2019). Data from: Unbalanced biparental care during colony foundation in two subterranean termites [Dataset]. Dryad.


Parental care is a major component of reproduction in social organisms, particularly during the foundation steps. Because investment into parental care is often costly, each parent is predicted to maximize its fitness by providing less care than its partner. However, this sexual conflict is expected to be low in species with lifelong monogamy, because the fitness of each parent is typically tied to the other’s input. Somewhat surprisingly, the outcomes of this tug-of-war between maternal and paternal investments have received important attention in vertebrate species, but remain less known in invertebrates. In this study, we investigated how queens and kings share their investment into parental care and other social interactions during colony foundation in two termites with lifelong monogamy: the invasive species Reticulitermes flavipes and the native species R. grassei. Behaviors of royal pairs were recorded during six months using a non-invasive approach. Our results showed that queens and kings exhibit unbalanced investment in terms of grooming, antennation, trophallaxis and vibration behavior. Moreover, both parents show behavioral differences towards their partner or their descendants. Our results also revealed differences among species, with R. flavipes exhibiting shorter periods of grooming and antennation towards eggs or partners. They also did more stomodeal trophallaxis and less vibration behavior. Overall, this study emphasizes that despite lifelong monogamy, the two parents are not equally involved in the measured forms of parental care and suggests that kings might be specialized in other tasks. It also indicates that males could play a central, yet poorly studied role in the evolution and maintenance of the eusocial organization.

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