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Am Nat. 2004 Jul;164(1):13-24. Epub 2004 May 13.

Selection, inheritance, and the evolution of parent-offspring interactions.

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School of Biological Sciences, University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PT, United Kingdom.


Very few studies have examined parent-offspring interactions from a quantitative genetic perspective. We used a cross-fostering design and measured genetic correlations and components of social selection arising from two parental and two offspring behaviors in the burying beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides. Genetic correlations were assessed by examining behavior of relatives independent of common social influences. We found positive genetic correlations between all pairs of behaviors, including between parent and offspring behaviors. Patterns of selection were assessed by standardized performance and selection gradients. Parental provisioning had positive effects on offspring performance and fitness, while remaining near the larvae without feeding them had negative effects. Begging had positive effects on offspring performance and fitness, while increased competition among siblings had negative effects. Coadaptations between parenting and offspring behavior appear to be maintained by genetic correlations and functional trade-offs; parents that feed their offspring more also spend more time in the area where they can forage for themselves. Families with high levels of begging have high levels of sibling competition. Integrating information from genetics and selection thus provides a general explanation for why variation persists in seemingly beneficial traits expressed in parent-offspring interactions and illustrates why it is important to measure functionally related suites of behaviors.

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