An evolutionary switch from sibling rivalry to sibling cooperation, caused by a sustained loss of parental care.
ABSTRACT: Sibling rivalry is commonplace within animal families, yet offspring can also work together to promote each other's fitness. Here we show that the extent of parental care can determine whether siblings evolve to compete or to cooperate. Our experiments focus on the burying beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides, which naturally provides variable levels of care to its larvae. We evolved replicate populations of burying beetles under two different regimes of parental care: Some populations were allowed to supply posthatching care to their young (Full Care), while others were not (No Care). After 22 generations of experimental evolution, we found that No Care larvae had evolved to be more cooperative, whereas Full Care larvae were more competitive. Greater levels of cooperation among larvae compensated for the fitness costs caused by parental absence, whereas parental care fully compensated for the fitness costs of sibling rivalry. We dissected the evolutionary mechanisms underlying these responses by measuring indirect genetic effects (IGEs) that occur when different sibling social environments induce the expression of more cooperative (or more competitive) behavior in focal larvae. We found that indirect genetic effects create a tipping point in the evolution of larval social behavior. Once the majority of offspring in a brood start to express cooperative (or competitive) behavior, they induce greater levels of cooperation (or competition) in their siblings. The resulting positive feedback loops rapidly lock larvae into evolving greater levels of cooperation in the absence of parental care and greater levels of rivalry when parents provide care.
Project description:Many studies have assessed the costs of sibling rivalry in systems where offspring always have competitors, but conclusions about sibling rivalry in these species are restricted to interpreting the cost of changes in the relative level of competition and are often complicated by the expression of potentially costly rivalry related traits. Additionally, the majority of studies focus on early-life sibling rivalry, but the costs of competition can also affect later-life performance. We test a suite of hypothesized immediate (early-life body mass, telomere length, and survival) and delayed (adult reproductive potential and lifespan) costs of sibling rivalry for offspring of differing competitive ability in Seychelles warblers, where most offspring are raised singly and hence competitor success can be compared to a competition-free scenario. Compared to those raised alone, all competing nestlings had lower body mass and weaker competitors experienced reduced survival. However, the stronger competitors appeared to have longer adult breeding tenures and lifespan than those raised alone. We propose that comparisons with competition-free groups, as well as detailed fitness measures across entire lifetimes, are needed to understand the evolution of sibling rivalry and thus individual reproductive strategy in wild systems.
Project description:Several recent hypotheses suggest that parental care can influence the extent of phenotypic variation within populations; however, there have been few tests of these ideas. We exploited the facultative nature of posthatching parental care in the burying beetle, Nicrophorus vespilloides, to test whether parental care influences the expression of phenotypic variation in an important fitness trait (body size). We found that parental care and brood size (which influences sibling competition) had positive and independent effects on variation in body size. First, the mean coefficient of variation (CV) of body size was significantly greater in broods that received care than in those that did not. Second, CV body size increased with brood size in both parental care treatments. These results are not consistent with predictions from recent hypotheses that predict parental care will reduce phenotypic variation among siblings. The positive effects of parental care and brood size on phenotypic variation that we observed are likely due to sibling competition for access to provisioning parents and competition for limiting resources contained in the breeding carcass. Our results suggest that future theory linking parental care to the generation and maintenance of phenotypic variation must integrate the nature of interactions among family members.
Project description:Intergenerational transfer of wealth has been proposed as playing a pivotal role in the evolution of human sibling relationships. Sibling rivalry is assumed to be more marked when offspring compete for limited heritable resources, which are crucial for reproductive success (e.g., land and livestock); whereas in the absence of heritable wealth, related siblings may cooperate. To date, comparative studies undertaken to support this evolutionary assumption have been confounded by other socioecological factors, which vary across populations, e.g., food sharing and intergroup conflict. In this article we explore effects of sibling competition and cooperation for agricultural resources, marriage, and reproduction in one contemporary Ethiopian agropastoralist society. Here recent changes in land tenure policy, altering transfers of land from parents to offspring, present a unique framework to test the importance of intergenerational transfers of wealth in driving sibling competition, while controlling for socioeconomic biases. In households where land is inherited, the number of elder brothers reduces a man's agricultural productivity, marriage, and reproductive success, as resources diminish and competition increases with each additional sibling. Where land is not inherited (for males receiving land directly from the government and all females) older siblings do not have a competitive effect and in some instances may be beneficial. This study has wider implications for the evolution of human family sizes. Recent changes in wealth transfers, which have driven sibling competition, may be contributing to an increased desire for smaller family sizes.
Project description:Mammal life history traits relating to growth and reproduction are extremely diverse. Sibling rivalry may contribute to selection pressures influencing this diversity, because individuals that are relatively large at birth typically have an advantage in competition for milk. However, selection for increased growth rate is likely to be constrained by kin selection and physiological costs. Here, we present and test a model examining the ESS (evolutionarily stable strategy) balance between these constraints and advantages associated with increased prenatal growth in mammal sibling rivalry. Predictions of the model are supported by results of comparative analyses for the Carnivora and Insectivora, which demonstrate an increase in prenatal growth rate with increasing intensity of postnatal scramble competition, and a decrease in postnatal growth rate relative to size at birth. Because increased prenatal growth rates are predicted to select for reduced gestation length under certain conditions, our study also indicates that sibling rivalry may contribute to selection pressures influencing variation in altriciality and precociality among mammals.
Project description:Nestlings of altricial birds capture parents' attention through conspicuous visual displays, including exposure of their gape coloration which informs parents about their level of need, competitive ability or health; information that parents use for deciding food allocation among their offspring. Thus, because nestlings compete with nest mates for parental care, nestling conspicuousness is expected to increase with level of sibling competition along bird phylogeny.We test this prediction by jointly using information of brood reduction, clutch size and duration of nestling period as proxies for intensity of sibling competition, and visual models that assess detectability of nestlings by adult birds. As predicted, we found a positive association between nestling conspicuousness and intensity of brood reduction, while clutch size and duration of nestling period did not enter in the best models. Level of brood reduction was positively related with the achromatic component of nestling conspicuousness and body mass was negatively related with the chromatic component.These associations are in agreement with the hypothesis that sibling competition for parental attention has driven the evolution of visual nestling conspicuousness in a context of parent-offspring communication in altricial birds.
Project description:Background:Good sibling relationships in adulthood are known to be a protective factor for mental health. The quality of these relationships is influence by the sibship's inherent characteristics (e.g., birth order, number of brothers and sisters, sex composition, age gaps). The present study explored whether these same determinants can help to explain how individuals experience their relationship with a sibling who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. Method:A total of 374 adults completed the Adult Sibling Relationship Questionnaire, a scale that probes the quality of these relationships on three dimensions: warmth, conflict, and rivalry. We also collected sociodemographic data and information about family structure from each of the participants. Participants were divided into two matched groups: nonclinical sibling group (n = 187) or schizophrenia sibling group (n = 187). Regression analyses were conducted to extract possible predictors of sibling relationship quality for each group. Further regression analyses then focused exclusively on relationships with an ill sibling, in order to study the role of disease-related variables in explaining each of the three dimensions. Results:Results showed that sociodemographic and family structure data explained a significant proportion of variance in the sibling relationship, but solely for nonclinical siblings. When participants had a sibling with schizophrenia, we found that disease-related variables (symptom severity, frequency of treatment) also had to be included to predict the conflict dimension. Conclusions:Our results suggest that feelings of conflict experienced by the schizophrenia sibling group were fueled by the symptoms the ill person displayed. Healthy brothers and sisters probably have only a poor understanding of these symptoms. This could be improved by supporting them and helping them learn more about the disease. Future research will have to prove that providing such support for siblings does indeed improve the quality of their sibling relationships and, by so doing, enhance the wellbeing of both members of a sibling dyad.
Project description:Carrion beetles in the genus Nicrophorus rear their offspring on decomposing carcasses where larvae are exposed to a diverse community of decomposer bacteria. Parents coat the carcass with antimicrobial secretions prior to egg hatch (defined as prehatch care) and also feed regurgitated food, and potentially bacteria, to larvae throughout development (defined as full care). Here, we partition the roles of prehatch and posthatch parental care in the transmission and persistence of culturable symbiotic bacteria to larvae. Using three treatment groups (full care, prehatch care only, and no care), we found that larvae receiving full care are predominantly colonized by bacteria resident in the maternal gut while larvae receiving no care are colonized with bacteria from the carcass. More importantly, larvae receiving only prehatch care were also predominantly colonized by maternal bacteria; this result indicates that parental treatment of the carcass, including application of bacteria to the carcass surface, is sufficient to ensure symbiont transfer even in the absence of direct larval feeding. Later in development, we found striking evidence that pupae undergo an aposymbiotic stage, after which they are recolonized at eclosion with bacteria similar to those found on the molted larval cuticle and on the wall of the pupal chamber. Our results clarify the importance of prehatch parental care for symbiont transmission in Nicrophorus vespilloides and suggest that these bacteria successfully outcompete decomposer bacteria during larval and pupal gut colonization.IMPORTANCE Here, we examine the origin and persistence of the culturable gut microbiota of larvae in the burying beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides This insect is particularly interesting for this study because larvae are reared on decomposing vertebrate carcasses, where they are exposed to high densities of carrion-decomposing microbes. Larvae also receive extensive parental care in the form of carcass preservation and direct larval feeding. We find that parents transmit their gut bacteria to larvae both directly, through regurgitation, and indirectly via their effects on the carcass. In addition, we find that larvae become aposymbiotic during pupation but are recolonized apparently from bacteria shed onto the insect cuticle before adult eclosion. Our results highlight the diverse interactions between insect behavior and development on microbiota composition. They further suggest that competitive interactions mediate the bacterial composition of Nicrophorus larvae together with or apart from the influence of beetle immunity, suggesting that the bacterial communities of these insects may be highly coevolved with those of their host species.
Project description:The reconstruction and timing of the early stages of social evolution, such as parental care, in the fossil record is a challenge, as these behaviors often do not leave concrete traces. One of the intensely investigated examples of modern parental care are the modern burying beetles (Silphidae: Nicrophorus), a lineage that includes notable endangered species. Here we report diverse transitional silphids from the Mesozoic of China and Myanmar that provide insights into the origins of parental care. Jurassic silphids from Daohugou, sharing many defining characters of Nicrophorinae, primitively lack stridulatory files significant for parental care communications; although morphologically similar, Early Cretaceous nicrophorines from the Jehol biota possess such files, indicating that a system of parental care had evolved by this early date. More importantly, burying beetles of the genus Nicrophorus have their earliest first record in mid-Cretaceous Burmese amber, and document early evolution of elaborate biparental care and defense of small vertebrate carcasses for their larvae. Parental care in the Early Cretaceous may have originated from competition between silphids and their predators. The rise of the Cretaceous Nicrophorinae implies a biology similar to modern counterparts that typically feed on carcasses of small birds and mammals.
Project description:Parents of many species provision their young, and the extent of parental provisioning constitutes a major component of the offspring's social environment. Thus, a change in parental provisioning can alter selection on offspring, resulting in the coevolution of parental and offspring traits. Although this reasoning is central to our evolutionary understanding of family life, there is little direct evidence that selection by parents causes evolutionary change in their offspring. Here we use experimental evolution to examine how populations of burying beetles adapt to a change in posthatching parental provisioning. We measured the performance of larvae descended from lab populations that had been maintained with and without posthatching parental care (Full Care and No Care populations). We found that adaptation to the absence of posthatching care led to rapid and consistent changes in larval survival in the absence of care. Specifically, larvae from No Care populations had higher survival in the absence of care than larvae from Full Care populations. Other measures of larval performance, such as the ability of larvae to consume a breeding carcass and larval mass at dispersal, did not differ between the Full Care and No Care populations. Nevertheless, our results show that populations can adapt rapidly to a change in the extent of parental care and that experimental evolution can be used to study such adaptation.
Project description:Studies on the evolution of parental care have focused primarily on the costs and benefits of parental care and the life-history attributes that favour it. However, once care evolves, offspring in some taxa appear to become increasingly dependent on their parents. Although offspring dependency is a central theme in family life, the evolutionary dynamics leading to it are not fully understood. Beetles of the genus Nicrophorus are well known for their elaborate biparental care, including provisioning of their young. By manipulating the occurrence of pre- or post-hatching care, we show that the offspring of three burying beetle species, N. orbicollis, N. pustulatus, and N. vespilloides, show striking variation in their reliance on parental care. Our results demonstrate that this variation within one genus arises through a differential dependency of larvae on parental feeding, but not on pre-hatching care. In N. pustulatus, larvae appear to be nutritionally independent of their parents, but in N. orbicollis, larvae do not survive in the absence of parental feeding. We consider evolutionary scenarios by which nutritional dependency may have evolved, highlighting the role of brood size regulation via infanticide in this genus.