Offspring of many animals beg for food from parents. Begging is often costly, and offspring should seek to reduce such costs to maximise their returns on begging. Whenever multiple adults provide care for a joint brood, as in species where multiple females breed communally, offspring should beg towards the parent that provisions the most food. Here, we investigate whether larvae spend more time begging towards larger females in the burying beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides. Prior work on this species shows that larger females provision more food than smaller ones, suggesting that larvae would benefit by preferentially begging towards larger females. To test for such a preference, we provided experimental broods with a simultaneous choice between two dead females: a smaller and a larger one. Larvae spent more time begging towards larger females. We next examined the behavioural mechanism for why larvae begged towards larger females. Larvae spent more time in close contact with larger females over smaller ones, whilst there was no evidence that larvae begged more when in close contact with larger females. Thus, larvae begged more towards the larger female simply as a consequence of spending more time close to larger females. Our findings have important implications for our understanding of parent-offspring communication by showing that offspring can choose between parents based on parental attributes, such as body size, reflecting how much food parents are likely to provision.
- body size
- nicrophorus vespilloides
- parent-offspring communication
- parental care