Maternal effects as a mechanism for manipulating male care and resolving sexual conflict over care

Matthieu Paquet, Per T. Smiseth

Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature reviewpeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Understanding how sexual conflict influences male and female parental decisions is a long-standing problem in behavioral ecology. Until now, most research on sexual conflict over parental care has focused on behavioral mechanisms mediating the resolution of this conflict through negotiation between parents. Here, we review evidence suggesting that maternal effects that alter offspring phenotypes may provide females with a mechanism for manipulating male care. We show that empirical studies on the role of maternal androgens in birds with biparental care provide no support for female manipulation of male care. However, we argue that it would be premature to conclude that maternal androgens play no role in female manipulation of male care given methodological problems in previous work. We then identify a number of additional mechanisms by which females may manipulate male care, including egg components other than androgens, egg size and egg coloration. We show that there is good evidence that egg coloration affects male care, suggesting that this mechanism warrants further research. We also highlight that current evidence is derived from studies using experimental design that target specific candidate mechanisms, such as maternal androgens. Given the multitude of candidate mechanisms, we discuss an alternative approach based on targeting ecologically relevant pre-natal conditions, such as food availability, and monitoring subsequent effects on candidate mechanisms, offspring phenotypes, and male and female care. Finally, we argue that it is timely to extend this work beyond birds with biparental care to include other taxa and species with uniparental male care and cooperative breeding.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBehavioral Ecology
Early online date27 Dec 2015
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 Dec 2015


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