How is sexual conflict over parental care resolved? A meta-analysis


Freya Harrison, Department of Biology & Biochemistry, University of Bath, Claverton Down, Bath BA2 7AY, UK.
Tel.: +44 1225 385437; fax: +44 1225 386779;


Biparental care of offspring is both a form of cooperation and a source of conflict. Parents face a trade-off between current and future reproduction: caring less for the current brood allows individuals to maintain energy reserves and increase their chances of remating. How can selection maintain biparental care, given this temptation to defect? The answer lies in how parents respond to changes in each other’s effort. Game-theoretical models predict that biparental care is evolutionarily stable when reduced care by one parent leads its partner to increase care, but not so much that it completely compensates for the lost input. Experiments designed to reveal responses to reduced partner effort have mainly focused on birds. We present a meta-analysis of 54 such studies, and conclude that the mean response was indeed partial compensation. Males and females responded differently and this was in part mediated by the type of manipulation used.