Separating differential allocation by females from direct effects of male condition in a beetle

Jon Richardson, Per Terje Smiseth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Differential allocation is the adjustment of reproductive allocation, typically by a female, in response to the quality of her male partner. A recent theoretical model suggests that differential allocation may influence trade-offs between reproductive traits within a breeding attempt. Furthermore, it is often difficult to distinguish differential allocation from direct effects of male condition. We address these gaps using a novel cross-fostering design to exclude direct effects of male condition and to test whether differential allocation affects trade-offs between and within breeding attempts. This design detects differential allocation as effects of a female’s mating partner and direct effects of male condition as effects of the larvae’s sire. We used the burying beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides, a species which adjusts reproductive allocation by culling some larvae after hatching. We used food-deprivation to manipulate the nutritional condition of both the female’s mating partner and the larvae’s sire. We find clear evidence for differential allocation as females mating with food-deprived males had fewer larvae than females mating with control males. There was a trade-off between number and size of larvae when females mated with control males, but a positive relationship when females mated with food-deprived males. Thus, differential allocation influenced relationships between reproductive traits within a breeding attempt, but not necessarily through trade-offs. Instead, we suggest that there may be cryptic heterogeneity in quality among females or their mating partners that was only exposed when females mated with a male in poor condition.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberaraa146
JournalBehavioral Ecology
Publication statusPublished - 25 Mar 2021

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • burying beetle
  • differential allocation
  • infanticide
  • male condition
  • reproductive trade offs


Dive into the research topics of 'Separating differential allocation by females from direct effects of male condition in a beetle'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this