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Manipulation of parental nutritional condition reveals competition among family members
- Keppner, Eva M., Ayasse, Manfred, Steiger, Sandra
- Journal of evolutionary biology 2018 v.31 no.6 pp. 822-832
- Coleoptera, breeding, dead animals, energy, family relations, feces, females, food consumption, males, nutritive value, parents, progeny, vertebrates
- Parental care is thought to be costly, as it consumes time and energy. Such costs might be reduced in animal parents that raise their young on valuable food sources such as dung or carcasses, as parents are able to invest in self‐maintenance by feeding from the same resource. However, this might lower the nutritional value for other family members and, as a consequence, food competition might arise. To promote our understanding of the outcome of such competition, we manipulated the necessity of parents to feed from the resource. Using a full factorial design, we paired food‐deprived or well‐fed males with food‐deprived or well‐fed females of burying beetles, which are known to raise their young on vertebrate cadavers. We found that food‐deprived parents consumed more of the carrion than those that were well‐fed and this had a negative impact on other family members. However, the outcome of the competition depended on the sex of the parents, with females suffering when males fed more and offspring suffering when females fed more. Thus, family life involves selfish elements, as both parents remove resources for the purpose of self‐maintenance. However, females show altruistic aspects, as they appear to restrict their food consumption for the benefit of their offspring when paired with a food‐deprived male. Interestingly, males extend their stay with the brood when having faced food scarcity prior to reproduction, presumably to replenish their energy reserves. Our study therefore reveals that breeding on shared resources can promote family living, but also results in competition.