Toggle Main Menu Toggle Search

Open Access padlockePrints

Evolution of elaborate parental care: phenotypic and genetic correlations between parent and offspring traits

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Clare Andrews



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


The evolution of elaborate forms of parental care is an important topic in behavioral ecology, yet the factors shaping the evolution of complex suites of parental and offspring traits are poorly understood. Here, we use a multivariate quantitative genetic approach to study phenotypic and genetic correlations between parental and offspring traits in the burying beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides. To this end, we recorded 2 prenatal traits (clutch size and egg size), 2 postnatal parental behaviors (direct care directed toward larvae and indirect care directed toward resource maintenance), 1 offspring behavior (begging), and 2 measures of breeding success (larval dispersal mass and number of dispersing larvae). Females breeding on larger carcasses provided less direct care but produced larger larvae than females breeding on smaller carcasses. Furthermore, there were positive phenotypic correlations between clutch size, direct, and indirect care. Both egg size and direct care were positively correlated with dispersal mass, whereas clutch size was negatively correlated with dispersal mass. Clutch size and number of dispersed larvae showed genetic variance both in terms of differences between populations of origin and significant heritabilities. However, we found no evidence of genetic variance underlying other parental or offspring traits. Our results suggest that correlations between suites of parental traits are driven by variation in individual quality rather than trade-offs, that some parental traits promote offspring growth while others increase the number of offspring produced, and that parental and offspring traits might respond slowly to selection due to low levels of additive genetic variance.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Andrews C, Kruuk LEB, Smiseth PT

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Behavioral Ecology

Year: 2017

Volume: 28

Issue: 1

Pages: 39-48

Print publication date: 01/01/2017

Online publication date: 22/08/2016

Acceptance date: 22/07/2016

Date deposited: 03/04/2018

ISSN (print): 1045-2249

ISSN (electronic): 1465-7279

Publisher: Oxford University Press


DOI: 10.1093/beheco/arw129


Altmetrics provided by Altmetric


Funder referenceFunder name