• foetal growth rate;
  • mating system;
  • parent–offspring conflict;
  • parental investment;
  • placental structure;
  • primates;
  • sperm competition


An evolutionary conflict of interest exists between parents and their offspring over the partitioning of parental investment (PI) among siblings. When the direct fitness benefits to offspring of increased PI, outweigh the inclusive fitness costs from lost future sibling fitness, selection should favour the evolution of offspring selfishness over altruism. In theory, this conflict is heightened when females are not strictly monogamous, as current offspring should be less altruistic towards future half-siblings than they would be towards full-siblings. Using data collected on foetal growth rate (representing prenatal PI) in primates, I test the prediction from theory that the resolution of the parent-offspring conflict will be closer to the offspring's evolutionary optima in polyandrous species than in more monandrous species. Using phylogenetic comparative analysis, and controlling for allometry, I show that offspring are able to obtain more PI when the probability of future full-siblings decreases, and that this is most pronounced in taxa where there is the opportunity for direct foetal access to the maternal bloodstream. These results support the hypothesis that the resolution of prenatal PI conflict is influenced by both a species’ mating system and by its placental structure.