A cost of maternal care in the dung beetle Onthophagus taurus

J. Hunt, Leigh Simmons, J.S. Kotiaho

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)


Parental care theory assumes that investment in current offspring will trade against future investment. A number of field studies on birds have used clutch size manipulations to demonstrate a survival cost to chick rearing. However, such studies do not account for costs accrued during earlier stages of reproduction because not all aspects of reproductive effort are manipulated by varying the number of nestlings. in this study, we investigate the effect of reproductive effort on female survival in the dung beetle, Onthophagus taurus. By experimentally manipulating mating status and dung availability, we demonstrate that virgin females survive longer than mated females and that the survival of mated females was negatively associated with the number of brood masses produced. Using a novel manipulation of the mating system, we separated the effects of egg production and maternal care on female survival. Previously, we have shown that females provisioning with the assistance of a major male provide relatively less care than unassisted females. However, paternal assistance did not alter the number of brood masses produced and hence the amount of reproductive effort that was allocated to egg production. Therefore, our finding, that female survival was increased when receiving paternal assistance provides, to our knowledge, the first definitive evidence that maternal care reduces female lifespan. These results are of major importance to theoretical models on the evolution of parental care.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-64
JournalJournal of Evolutionary Biology
Publication statusPublished - 2002


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