In species with biparental care, begging offspring may preferentially associate with or beg more towards one of their parents. Such preferences may reflect that the benefits of begging vary with the parent's sex given that females and males often differ in the amount of care they provide and/or in their responsiveness to begging levels. Alternatively, they may reflect the outcome of sexual conflict over care as females may deposit compounds into eggs tha talter offspring begging behaviour such that it increases male contributions towards care. For example, females might use male presence during egg laying as a cue for whether they might receive male assistance in care. Here, we studied offspring begging behaviour towards male and female parents in the burying beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides by manipulating male presence or absence during egg laying and providing larvae with a simultaneous choice between an unfamiliar female and male adult beetle. We then recorded begging behaviour of (1) naïve newly hatched larvae that had no prior experience of a parent and (2) larvae after 24 h of care by foster parents. Larvae showed a clear preference for associating with and begging towards females both when naïve and after 24 h of care. We found no evidence for prenatal maternal effects on larval begging behaviour. Our study reveals that offspring are predisposed to preferentially beg towards females independently of prior experiences with parents and highlights the importance of considering responses of begging offspring to parental attributes, such as the parent's sex, for our understanding of family conflicts.
- maternal effects
- sexual conflicts