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Am Nat. 2000 Mar;155(3):326-334.

Parental Care: The Key to Understanding Endothermy and Other Convergent Features in Birds and Mammals.


Birds and mammals share a number of features that are remarkably similar but that have evolved independently. One of these characters, endothermy, has been suggested to have played a cardinal role in avian and mammalian evolution. I hypothesize that it is parental care, rather than endothermy, that is the key to understanding the amazing convergence between mammals and birds. Endothermy may have arisen as a consequence of selection for parental care because endothermy enables a parent to control incubation temperature. The remarkable ability of many birds and mammals to sustain vigorous exercise may also have arisen as a consequence of selection for parental care because provisioning of offspring often requires sustained vigorous exercise. Because extensive parental care encompasses a wide range of behaviors, morphology, and physiology, it may be a key innovation that accounts for the majority of convergent avian and mammalian characters.

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