Food deprivation affects egg laying and maternal care but not offspring performance in a beetle

Jon Richardson, Jen Ross, Per T Smiseth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Individuals vary with respect to their nutritional state and such variation is an important determinant of the amount of resources individuals allocate toward reproductive functions. Currently, we have a relatively poor understanding of the downstream consequences of food deprivation on different traits associated with reproduction. Here, we address this gap by investigating how food deprivation affected different traits across the breeding cycle in the burying beetle, Nicrophorus vespilloides; a species that breeds on carcasses of small vertebrates serving as food for both parents and offspring. We found that food-deprived females took longer to start egg laying than control females, which may allow them more time to feed from the carcass. There was no difference between food-deprived and control females in the number, size, laying pattern, or hatching success of eggs, suggesting that this delay allowed females to compensate for their poor initial state. However, food-deprived females spent less time providing care, suggesting that this compensation was incomplete. Finally, we found no evidence for negative effects of food deprivation on the offspring’s growth or survival, which is surprising given that food-deprived females took longer to initiate egg laying and provided less care to their offspring. Our results highlight that food deprivation can have complex effects on parental and offspring traits, and suggest that females face a trade-off between the benefits of mitigating downstream consequences of nutritional stress and the costs associated with delaying the start of reproduction.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBehavioral Ecology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jun 2019

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • egg laying
  • nutritional state
  • offspring begging
  • offspring performance
  • parental care
  • reproductive investment


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