Testing Cost-Benefit Models of Parental Care Evolution Using Lizard Populations Differing in the Expression of Maternal Care

Huang, Wen-San; Pike, David A.
February 2013
PLoS ONE;Feb2013, Vol. 8 Issue 2, p1
Academic Journal
Parents are expected to evolve tactics to care for eggs or offspring when providing such care increases fitness above the costs incurred by this behavior. Costs to the parent include the energetic demands of protecting offspring, delaying future fecundity, and increased risk of predation. We used cost-benefit models to test the ecological conditions favoring the evolution of parental care, using lizard populations that differ in whether or not they express maternal care. We found that predators play an important role in the evolution of maternal care because: (1) evolving maternal care is unlikely when care increases predation pressure on the parents; (2) maternal care cannot evolve under low levels of predation pressure on both parents and offspring; and (3) maternal care evolves only when parents are able to successfully defend offspring from predators without increasing predation risk to themselves. Our studies of one of the only known vertebrate species to exhibit interpopulation differences in the expression of maternal care provide clear support for some of the hypothesized circumstances under which maternal care should evolve (e.g., when nests are in exposed locations, parents are able to defend the eggs from predators, and egg incubation periods are brief), but do not support others (e.g., when nest-sites are scarce, life history strategies are “risky”, reproductive frequency is low, and environmental conditions are harsh). We conclude that multiple pathways can lead to the evolution of parental care from a non-caring state, even in a single population of a widespread species.


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