Parents and offspring have different optima for the level of parental resource allocation and the timing of nutritional independence. Theoretical models assume that either parents or offspring control the allocation of resources within a brood; however, control may also be mutual. Here we investigate whether the resolution of parent-offspring conflict is biased towards cues from either the parents' or the offspring's behaviour, or whether the conflict is under mutual control. Importantly, we considered potential shifts in the power continuum over the entire period of juvenile dependency. The burying beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides parents provision food for the larvae, and the larvae solicit food from their parents with conspicuous begging displays. Both parental and larval behaviours change as larvae age. We repeatedly manipulated the age of the brood females care for, thereby creating mismatch between the age of the foster brood and expected age of the brood from the female parent's perspective, over the period of dependency in juvenile development. We found that females adjusted the total amount of provisioning based on the actual age of the brood. However, both the parent and the offspring influenced the levels of food provisioning, which followed neither the expected age of the brood from the parent's perspective nor offspring age. Our results suggest that there is mutual control over parental care, thus contradicting the dichotomous view of control over parental care. We suggest that the mutual influence of both parents and the offspring should be taken into account in development of future theory, as well as empirical studies.
Please note sheets with keys for the column headers. Two sets of data are presented: One of behaviour observations, and another of larvae weight and age at dispersal.