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Interspecific Interactions and the Scope for Parent-Offspring Conflict: High Mite Density Temporarily Changes the Trade-Off between Offspring Size and Number in the Burying Beetle, Nicrophorus vespilloides.

ABSTRACT: Parents have a limited amount of resources to invest in reproduction and commonly trade-off how much they invest in offspring size (or quality) versus brood size. A negative relationship between offspring size and number has been shown in numerous taxa and it underpins evolutionary conflicts of interest between parents and their young. For example, previous work on vertebrates shows that selection favours mothers that produce more offspring, at the expense of individual offspring size, yet favours offspring that have relatively few siblings and therefore attain a greater size at independence. Here we analyse how this trade-off is temporarily affected by stochastic variation in the intensity of interspecific interactions. We examined the effect of the mite Poecilochirus carabi on the relationship between offspring size and number in the burying beetle, Nicrophorus vespilloides. We manipulated the initial number of mites in the reproductive event (by introducing either no mites, 4 mites, 10 mites, or 16 mites), and assessed the effect on the brood. We found a similar trade-off between offspring size and number in all treatments, except in the '16 mite' treatment where the correlation between offspring number and size flattened considerably. This effect arose because larvae in small broods failed to attain a high mass by dispersal. Our results show that variation in the intensity of interspecific interactions can temporarily change the strength of the trade-off between offspring size and number. In this study, high densities of mites prevented individual offspring from attaining their optimal weight, thus potentially temporarily biasing the outcome of parent-offspring conflict in favour of parents.

SUBMITTER: De Gasperin O 

PROVIDER: S-EPMC4795767 | BioStudies | 2016-01-01

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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