Authors: Mariette, Mylene M.; Griffith, Simon C.
Source: AMERICAN NATURALIST, 185 (2):270-280, FEB 2015
Brief summary of the paper: Sexual conflict over parental care relies on the fundamental assumption that parents do not share the cost of their partner’s effort on future reproduction.
However, this is unlikely to be true whenever partners breed together more than once. In that case, individuals should try to optimize the cost and benefits for the pair, rather than only for themselves.
Here we seek to establish whether the synchronization of parents’ provisioning visits to the nest could fulfill this function. We conducted a brood-size manipulation experiment on wild zebra finches to test whether nest visit synchrony was flexible and beneficial for nestlings’ growth, while controlling for the confounding effects of pair “quality” and synchrony away from the nest during foraging.
Using a network of readers to track parents at nests and feeding stations, we found that nest visit synchrony responded directly to the brood manipulation and increased with brood size. Synchrony at the nest and while foraging were correlated, but the latter better predicted nestling mass, possibly because it was associated with more regular provisioning patterns.
Our findings suggest that parental coordination could indeed play an important role in partners’ investment decisions, underpinning the evolution of the most prominent mating system in birds.