Increased allocation to reproduction reduces future competitive ability in a burying beetle

Jon Richardson, Josh Stephens, Per Terje Smiseth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

1. The existence of a trade-off between current and future reproduction is a fundamental prediction of life-history theory. Support for this prediction comes from brood size manipulations, showing that caring for enlarged broods often reduces the parent’s future survival or fecundity. However, in many species, individuals must invest in competing for the resources required for future reproduction. Thus, a neglected aspect of this trade-off is that increased allocation to current reproduction may reduce an individual’s future competitive ability.
2. We tested this prediction in the burying beetle, Nicrophorus vespilloides, a species where parents care for their offspring and where there is fierce competition for resources used for breeding.
3. We manipulated reproductive effort by providing females with either a small brood of 10 larvae or a large brood of 40 larvae and compared the ability of these females, and virgin females that had no prior access to a carcass, to compete for a second carcass against a virgin competitor.
4. We found that increased allocation to current reproduction reduced future competitive ability, as females that had cared for a small brood were more successful when competing for a second carcass against a virgin competitor than females that had cared for a large brood. In addition, the costs of reproduction were offset by the benefits of feeding from the carcass during an initial breeding attempt, as females that had cared for a small brood were better competitors than virgin females that had no prior access to a carcass, whilst females that had cared for a large brood were similar in competitive ability to virgin females.
5. Our results add to our understanding of the trade-off between current and future reproduction by showing that this trade-off can manifest through differences in future competitive ability and that direct benefits of reproduction can offset some of these costs.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Animal Ecology
Early online date1 May 2020
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 May 2020

Keywords

  • burying beetle
  • competition
  • cost of reproduction
  • life history trade-offs
  • reproductive allocation

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