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Parental effects alter the adaptive value of an adult behavioural trait

  1. RM Kilner  Is a corresponding author
  2. G Boncoraglio
  3. JM Henshaw
  4. BJM Jarrett
  5. O De Gasperin
  6. A Attisano
  7. H Kokko
  1. University of Cambridge, United Kingdom
  2. Australian National University, Australia
  3. University of Zürich, Switzerland
Research Article
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Cite this article as: eLife 2015;4:e07340 doi: 10.7554/eLife.07340

Abstract

The parents' phenotype, or the environment they create for their young, can have long-lasting effects on their offspring, with profound evolutionary consequences. Yet virtually no work has considered how such parental effects might change the adaptive value of behavioural traits expressed by offspring upon reaching adulthood. To address this problem, we combined experiments on burying beetles (Nicrophorus vespilloides) with theoretical modelling, and focussed on one adult behavioural trait in particular: the supply of parental care. We manipulated the early life environment and measured the fitness payoffs associated with the supply of parental care when larvae reached maturity. We found that (1) adults that received low levels of care as larvae were less successful at raising larger broods, and suffered greater mortality as a result: they were low quality parents. Furthermore (2) high quality males that raised offspring with low quality females subsequently suffered greater mortality than brothers of equivalent quality, which reared larvae with higher quality females. Our analyses identify three general ways in which parental effects can change the adaptive value of an adult behavioural trait: by influencing the associated fitness benefits and costs; by consequently changing the evolutionary outcome of social interactions; and by modifying the evolutionarily stable expression of behavioural traits that are themselves parental effects.

Article and author information

Author details

  1. RM Kilner

    Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom
    For correspondence
    rmk1002@cam.ac.uk
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  2. G Boncoraglio

    Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  3. JM Henshaw

    Research School of Biology, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  4. BJM Jarrett

    Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  5. O De Gasperin

    Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  6. A Attisano

    Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  7. H Kokko

    Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies, University of Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Carl T Bergstrom, University of Washington, United States

Publication history

  1. Received: March 5, 2015
  2. Accepted: September 14, 2015
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: September 22, 2015 (version 1)
  4. Version of Record published: October 22, 2015 (version 2)

Copyright

© 2015, Kilner et al.

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.

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