Brood sex ratio modulates the effects of extra food on parental effort and sibling competition in a sexually dimorphic raptor

Camilla Soravia, Jacopo G. Cecere, Diego Rubolini

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4 Citations (Web of Science)


Abstract: Conflicts are inherent to family systems and may occur at three levels. First, each parent benefits if its mate takes the greater share of parental investment. Second, offspring try to manipulate their parents into devolving more resources than it is optimal for them. Third, siblings compete for resources. Food availability can affect the dynamics of each level of interaction. By means of a food supplementation experiment, we assessed how the initial availability of extra food during breeding affects later parental effort, sibling competition, and parent-offspring interactions in a small dimorphic raptor, the lesser kestrel (Falco naumanni). Being the larger sex, female nestlings are likely to have higher energy requirements. Female-biased broods had a higher rate of aggressive interactions and were fed more frequently in control nests. Food was not shared evenly among broodmates, and daughters tended to receive more feedings than sons. In young broods, parents controlled food allocation by entering the nest, whereas in older broods, offspring controlled food allocation by monopolizing the nest site entrance. Extra food induced male parents to reduce the rate of feedings delivered by entering the nest. Additionally, extra food improved nestling growth in male-biased broods, leading to an increase in the frequency of parental feedings and aggressive interactions, likely due to faster growth rates. These findings reveal a key effect of brood sex ratio in determining family interactions in a species with reverse sexual size dimorphism and suggest that all levels of conflict between family members should be considered simultaneously when investigating the evolution of parental care. Significance statement: Breeding poses energetic costs on parents, and environmental resources are usually limited. To successfully breed, parents coordinate their efforts and manage the allocation of resources to offspring, while offspring communicate their needs. Conflict can arise among family members: each parent benefits if the other takes on most of the workload, offspring ask for more care than what parents can provide, and siblings compete for food. Food availability affects these interaction levels separately, but they have rarely been integrated. By providing extra food to lesser kestrel (Falco naumanni) nests, we show that parental provisioning behaviour and sibling competition are simultaneously affected by initial resource availability during breeding. Although lesser kestrel nestlings show only moderate sex differences in body size (and therefore energy requirements), the effect of extra food on family interactions primarily depended on the sex ratio of the brood.

Original languageEnglish
Article number62
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021


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