Asynchronous hatching provides females with a means for increasing male care but incurs a cost by reducing offspring fitness

Lucy Ford, Per T. Smiseth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

In species with biparental care, sexual conflict occurs because the benefit of care depends on the total amount of care provided by the two parents while the cost of care depends on each parent’s own contribution. Asynchronous hatching may play a role in mediating the resolution of this conflict over parental care. The sexual conflict hypothesis for the evolution of asynchronous hatching suggests that females adjust hatching patterns in order to increase male parental effort relative to female effort. We tested this hypothesis in the burying beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides by setting up experimental broods with three different hatching patterns: synchronous, asynchronous and highly asynchronous broods. As predicted, we found that males provided care for longer in asynchronous broods whereas the opposite was true of females. However, we did not find any benefit to females of reducing their duration of care in terms of increased lifespan or reduced mass loss during breeding. We found substantial negative effects of hatching asynchrony on offspring fitness as larval mass was lower and fewer larvae survived to dispersal in highly asynchronous broods compared to synchronous or asynchronous broods. Our results suggest that, even though females can increase male parental effort by hatching their broods more asynchronously, females pay a substantial cost from doing so in terms of reducing offspring growth and survival. Thus, females should be under selection to produce a hatching pattern that provides the best possible trade-off between the benefits of increased male parental effort and the costs due to reduced offspring fitness.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)428-437
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Evolutionary Biology
Issue number2
Early online date16 Dec 2015
Publication statusPublished - 8 Feb 2016


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