Current brood size and residual reproductive value predict brood desertion in the burying beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides

Ward, R. J. S., Cotter, S. C. and Kilner, R. M. (2009) Current brood size and residual reproductive value predict brood desertion in the burying beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides. Behavioral Ecology, 20 (6). pp. 1274-1281. ISSN 1045-2249

Full content URL:

Ward et al 2009 BE pre print.pdf
Ward et al 2009 BE pre print.pdf - Whole Document
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Item Type:Article
Item Status:Live Archive


Life history theory suggests that offspring desertion can be an adaptive reproductive strategy, in which parents forgo the costly care of an unprofitable current brood to save resources for future reproduction. In the burying beetle, Nicrophorus vespilloides, parents commonly abandon their offspring to the care of others, resulting in female-only care, male-only care, brood parasitism and the care of offspring sired by satellite males. Furthermore, when there is biparental care, males routinely desert the brood before larval development is complete, leaving females behind to tend their young. We attempted to understand these patterns of offspring desertion by using laboratory experiments to compare the fitness costs associated with parental care for each sex and the residual reproductive value of the two sexes. We also tested whether current brood size and residual reproductive value together predicted the incidence of brood desertion. We found that males and females each sustained fecundity costs as a consequence of caring for larvae, and that these costs were of comparable magnitude. Nevertheless, males had greater residual reproductive value than females and were more likely than females to desert experimental broods. Our results can explain why males desert the brood earlier than females in nature, and why female-only care is more common than male-only care. They also suggest that the tipping point from brood parasitism or satellite male behavior to communal breeding (and vice versa) depends on the value of the current brood relative to residual reproductive value.

Keywords:biparental care, reproductive skew, negotiation, alternative reproductive tactics, senescence, sexual conflict
Subjects:C Biological Sciences > C182 Evolution
C Biological Sciences > C340 Entomology
C Biological Sciences > C150 Environmental Biology
C Biological Sciences > C120 Behavioural Biology
C Biological Sciences > C180 Ecology
C Biological Sciences > C300 Zoology
C Biological Sciences > C100 Biology
Divisions:College of Science > School of Life Sciences
ID Code:16016
Deposited On:16 Nov 2014 18:45

Repository Staff Only: item control page