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Evolution. 2007 Oct;61(10):2331-9. Epub 2007 Aug 17.

Interaction between parental care and sibling competition: parents enhance offspring growth and exacerbate sibling competition.

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Faculty of Life Sciences, The Michael Smith Building, The University of Manchester, Manchester, UK.


Species with elaborate parental care often also show intense sibling competition over resources provided by parents, suggesting joint evolution of these two traits. Despite this, the evolution of elaborate parental care and the evolution of intense sibling competition are often studied separately. Here, we examine the interaction between parental food provisioning and sibling competition for resources through the joint manipulation of the presence or absence of parents and brood size in a species with facultative parental care: the burying beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides. The effect of the interaction between the presence or absence of parents and brood size was strong; brood size had a strong effect on growth when parents provided care, but no effect when parents were absent. As in previous studies, offspring grew faster when parents were present than when parents were absent, and offspring grew faster in smaller broods than in larger broods. Our behavioral observations showed that brood size had a negative effect on both the amount of time parents spent providing resources to individual offspring and the offspring's effectiveness of begging, confirming that the level of sibling competition increased with brood size. Furthermore, offspring in larger broods shifted more from begging toward self-feeding as they grew older compared to offspring in small broods. Our study provides novel insights into the joint evolution of parental care and sibling competition, and the evolution of offspring begging signals. We discuss the implications of our results in light of recent theoretical work on the evolution of parental care, sibling competition, and offspring begging signals.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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