It Takes Two

Former Institute Fellow Chris Schell, Ph.D. and Institute Member Jill Mateo, Ph.D. find evidence for reduced conflict over parental care in canids

Citation

Schell, C.J, Young, J.K., Lonsdorf, E.V., Mateo, J.M., & Santymire, R.M. (2018). It takes two: Evidence for reduced sexual conflict over parental care in a biparental canid. Journal of Mammology, 99(1), 75-88. doi: 10.1093/jmammal/gyx150.

Abstract

In biparental systems, sexual conflict over parental investment predicts that the parent providing care experiences greater reproductive costs. This inequality in parental contribution is reduced when offspring survival is dependent on biparental care. However, this idea has received little empirical attention. Here, we determined whether mothers and fathers differed in their contribution to care in a captive population of coyotes (Canis latrans). We performed parental care assays on 8 (n = 8 males, 8 females) mated pairs repeatedly over a 10-week period (i.e., 5–15 weeks of litter age) when pairs were first-time breeders (2011), and again as experienced breeders (2013). We quantified consistent individual variation (i.e., repeatability) in 8 care behaviors and examined within- and among-individual correlations to determine if behavioral plasticity within or parental personality across seasons varied by sex. Finally, we extracted hormone metabolites (i.e., cortisol and testosterone) from fecal samples collected during gestation to describe potential links between hormonal mechanisms and individual consistency in parental behaviors. Parents differed in which behaviors were repeatable: mothers demonstrated consistency in provisioning and pup-directed aggression, whereas fathers were consistent in pup checks. However, positive within-individual correlations for identical behaviors (e.g., maternal versus paternal play) suggested that the rate of change in all behaviors except provisioning was highly correlated between the sexes. Moreover, positive among-individual correlations among 50% of identical behaviors suggested that personality differences across parents were highly correlated. Lastly, negative among-individual correlations among pup-directed aggression, provisioning, and gestational testosterone in both sexes demonstrated potential links between preparental hormones and labile parental traits. We provide novel evidence that paternal contribution in a biparental species reaches near equivalent rates of their partners.

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