Evolution of Parental Care

Per T. Smiseth

in Evolutionary Biology

ISBN: 9780199941728
Published online January 2014 | | DOI:
Evolution of Parental Care

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Parental care involves traits expressed by parents that are directed toward their offspring and that enhance the offspring’s fitness (development or survival). These traits often incur a cost to the parents’ own survival and reproduction. Familiar examples include mammals, where females first nourish developing embryos via a placenta and then provision the young with milk after birth, and many birds, where females first nourish the developing embryos via egg yolk, and both parents later provision the nestlings with arthropods or some other food source. Less familiar examples occur among reptiles, amphibians, fishes, arthropods, mollusks, annelids, and other invertebrate groups. Some of these examples include elaborate forms of care comparable to those found in mammals and birds, while other examples include much simpler forms, as in most invertebrates, where care is restricted to nourishment of the embryo via egg yolk. Parental care is an extremely diverse trait, varying both within and between species with respect to the form it takes, its level and duration, and the extent to which it is provided by the male, the female, or both parents. The study of the evolutionary causes and consequences of this diversity is an important area of research in evolutionary biology. Important aims in this field are to understand how selection and genetic architecture generate and maintain diversity in parental care; how the diversity in parental care drives or is driven by selection on other traits of interest, such as life-histories, mating systems and sexual selection, and sociality; and how genetic conflicts of interest among family members shape the allocation of resources from parents to offspring.

Article.  14349 words. 

Subjects: Evolutionary Biology

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