Does environmental variability explain male parental care in a burying beetle?
thesisposted on 04.08.2020, 20:00 by Noah S Feldman
Many animal species invest in extended parental care for their offspring. Parental care is costly, and natural selection favors investment strategies which maximize reproductive success. Biparental care is relatively rare, but when it does occur it has been found to increase success in terms of offspring survival and growth and in terms of future reproductive opportunities. In burying beetles (Nicrophorus spp.), both male and female participate in extended parental care. However, the fitness benefits of biparental care in burying beetles have been difficult to establish, with some studies reporting significantly smaller broods produced when both male and female are present. Variation in environmental conditions, such as temperature, is an important part of the context in which biparental care evolves. I hypothesize that biparental care acts as a buffer against environmental variation. This hypothesis predicts that biparental care will lead to greater reproductive success compared to uniparental care when temperature is increased during a reproductive attempt. I also tested the load-lightening hypothesis, which holds that biparental care benefits future reproduction by lowering the costs of reproduction. This predicts that the additional care by the other parent will allow females to rear higher quality second broods. I conducted a male removal experiment at two temperature treatments, using the species Nicrophorus orbicollis. I measured reproductive success during manipulated first brood and during second broods which females reared without a male, regardless of prior experience. I found that, contrary to my hypothesis, biparental care at the higher temperature resulted in reduced reproductive success compared to uniparental care. I found no effect of biparental care on the success of second broods. Instead, I found evidence of reproductive restraint associated with the higher temperature treatment in delayed egg-laying and increased feeding during second broods.