Sex roles in nest keeping : how information asymmetry contributes to parent-offspring co-adaptation
Parental food provisioning and offspring begging influence each other reciprocally. This makes both traits agents and targets of selection, which may ultimately lead to co-adaptation. The latter may reflect co-adapted parent and offspring genotypes or could be due to maternal effects. Maternal effects are in turn likely to facilitate in particular mother-offspring co-adaptation, further emphasized by the possibility that mothers are sometimes found to be more responsive to offspring need. However, parents may not only differ in their sensitivity, but often play different roles in postnatal care. This potentially impinges on the access to information about offspring need. We here manipulated the information on offspring need as perceived by parents by playing back begging calls at a constant frequency in the nest-box of blue tits (Cyanistes caeruleus). We measured the parental response in provisioning to our treatment, paying particular attention to sex differences in parental roles and whether such differences alter the perception of the intensity of our manipulation. This enabled us to investigate whether an information asymmetry about offspring need exists between parents and how such an asymmetry relates to co-adaptation between parental provisioning and offspring begging. Our results show that parents indeed differed in the frequency how often they perceived the playback due to the fact that females spent more time with their offspring in the nest box. Correcting for the effective exposure of an adult to the playback, the parental response in provisioning covaried more strongly (positive) with offspring begging intensity, independent of the parental sex, indicating coadaptation on the phenotypic level. Females were not more sensitive to experimentally increased offspring need than males, but they were exposed to more broadcasted begging calls. Therefore, sex differences in access to information about offspring need, due to different parental roles, have the potential to impinge on family conflicts and their resolution.
Source (journal)
Ecology and evolution. - Oxford, 2011, currens
Oxford : Wiley-Blackwell, 2016
6:6(2016), p. 1825-1833
Full text (Publisher's DOI)
Full text (open access)
Research group
Project info
On the function of maternal yolk androgens in birds: from early adjustments to post-hatching conditions to long-term effects.
Conflict and co-adaptation: the evolution of parental care in a wild bird species.
Publication type
Publications with a UAntwerp address
External links
Web of Science
Creation 10.05.2016
Last edited 20.11.2017
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