Royal Society Publishing

The quantitative genetic basis of offspring solicitation and parental response in a passerine bird with biparental care

Mathias Kölliker, Martin W. G. Brinkhof, Philipp Heeb, Patrick S. Fitze, Heinz Richner


The coevolution of parental investment and offspring solicitation is driven by partly different evolutionary interests of genes expressed in parents and their offspring. In species with biparental care, the outcome of this conflict may be influenced by the sexual conflict over parental investment. Models for the resolution of such family conflicts have made so far untested assumptions about genetic variation and covariation in the parental resource provisioning response and the level of offspring solicitation. Using a combination of cross-fostering and begging playback experiments, we show that, in the great tit (Parus major), (i) the begging call intensity of nestlings depends on their common origin, suggesting genetic variation for this begging display, (ii) only mothers respond to begging calls by increased food provisioning, and (iii) the size of the parental response is positively related to the begging call intensity of nestlings in the maternal but not paternal line. This study indicates that genetic covariation, its differential expression in the maternal and paternal lines and/or early environmental and parental effects need to be taken into account when predicting the phenotypic outcome of the conflict over investment between genes expressed in each parent and the offspring.

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