Male burying beetles extend, not reduce, parental care duration when reproductive competition is high.
Journal of Evolutionary Biology
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Male parents spend less time caring than females in many species with biparental care. The traditional explanation for this pattern is that males have lower confidence of parentage, so they desert earlier in favor of pursuing other mating opportunities. However, one recent alternative hypothesis is that prolonged male parental care might also evolve if staying to care actively improves paternity. If this is the case, an increase in reproductive competition should be associated with increased paternal care. To test this prediction we manipulated the level of reproductive competition experienced by burying beetles, Nicrophorus vespilloides (Herbst, 1783). We found that caregiving males stayed for longer and mated more frequently with their partner when reproductive competition was greater. Reproductive productivity did not increase when males extended care. Our findings provide support for the increased paternity hypothesis. Extended duration of parental care may be a male tactic both protecting investment (in the current brood) and maximising paternity (in subsequent brood(s) via female stored sperm) even if this fails to maximise current reproductive productivity and creates conflict of interest with their mate via costs associated with increased mating frequency. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2015 The Authors. Journal of Evolutionary Biology Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of European Society for Evolutionary Biology.
Published online: 17 JUN 2015