Coadaptation of prenatal and postnatal maternal effects

Judith E. Lock, Per T. Smiseth, Patricia J. Moore, Allen J. Moore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

In a wide variety of species, a female's age of first reproduction influences offspring size and survival, suggesting that there exists an optimal timing of reproduction. Mothers in many species also influence offspring size and survival after birth through variation in parental care. We experimentally separated these effects in the burying beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides to test for coadaptation between prenatal and postnatal maternal effects associated with age at first reproduction. Females that reproduced early produced offspring with lower birth weight. The amount of parental care depended on the age of first reproduction of the caretaker, as did the extent of offspring begging. As predicted for a coadaptation of maternal effects, prenatal and postnatal effects were opposite for different-aged mothers, and larval weight gain and survival was greatest when the age of the caretaker and birth mother matched. Thus, prenatal effects intrinsically associated with age of first reproduction can be ameliorated by innate plasticity in postnatal care. A coadaptation of prenatal and postnatal maternal effects may evolve to allow variable timing of the first reproductive attempt. Such a coadaptation might be particularly valuable when females are constrained from reproducing at an optimal age, as, for example, in species that breed on scarce and unpredictable resources.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)709-718
Number of pages10
JournalThe American Naturalist
Volume170
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2007

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • age at first reproduction
  • burying beetle
  • larval growth
  • maternal performance
  • Nicrophorus vespilloides
  • parental care
  • FEMALE BURYING BEETLES
  • EGG SIZE
  • OFFSPRING PERFORMANCE
  • SEED BEETLE
  • AGE
  • EVOLUTION
  • BEHAVIOR
  • SELECTION
  • VESPILLOIDES
  • COLEOPTERA

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