Post‐fertilization Reproductive Strategies

Abstract

Animals have diverse strategies that improve the success of their offspring after mating (i.e. post‐fertilization reproductive strategies); the most common ones are parental care and offspring provisioning. The type, mode and duration of parental care exhibited by males and females depend on social and nonsocial environment, and on genetic and phylogenetic constraints. We overview five rapidly developing areas of parental care research, and conclude that sexual conflict between parents, social interactions and environmental conditions play important roles in determining post‐fertilization reproductive strategies.

Keywords: parental care; offspring desertion; sexual conflict; cooperation

Figure 1.

Central to the question how much care a parent should provide is the trade‐off between current and future reproduction. In general, if a male has the opportunity to decrease parental care (a), this may constrain the possibility for his partner to do so, and the female may even compensate for the lack of care by the male. By decreasing paternal care, the male may enhance his own reproductive output by acquiring multiple mates, or by enhancing his own longevity, thus enhancing his future reproductive output. If the female, however, decreases parental care, this will negatively affect the male's reproductive output. If the female has the opportunity to lower parental care (b), the effects are a mirror image. An increase in parental care by either parent is expected to reduce its future reproductive output. The focal sex (a: male, b: female) is in italics in both diagrams (see Szentirmai et al., ).

Figure 2.

The Eurasian penduline tit, Remiz pendulinus, has an extremely variable breeding system among birds: incubation and feeding of nestlings is carried out by either the male or the female, whereas about 30–40% of nests are deserted by both parents. This diverse breeding system appears to be driven by intense sexual conflict over care. Photograph R.E. van Dijk.

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Further Reading

Balshine S, Kempenaers B and Székely T (eds) (2002). Conflict and co‐operation in parental care. Thematic issue. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society 357: 237–404.

Chapman T, Arnqvist G, Bangham J and Rowe L (2003) Sexual conflict. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 18: 41–47.

Houston AI, Székely T and McNamara JM (2005) Conflict over parental care. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 20: 33–38.

Kokko H and Jennions M (2008) Parental investment, sexual selection and sex ratios. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 21: 919–948.

Reynolds JD, Goodwin NB and Freckleton RP (2002) Evolutionary transitions in parental care and live bearing in vertebrates. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society London. Series B, Biological Sciences 357: 269–281.

Tallamy DW (1999) Child care among the insects. Scientific American 280: 72–77.

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van Dijk, René E, and Székely, Tamás(Dec 2008) Post‐fertilization Reproductive Strategies. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0003665]