Costly parenting: physiological condition over time and season in males of the giant waterbug Abedus dilatatus

Roberto Munguia-Steyer, Erik Gonzalez-Garcia, Clara Elisa Castanos, Alex Cordoba-Aguilar

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1 Citation (Scopus)


Parental care patterns increase offspring fitness but may drive energetic costs to parents. The costs associated with parental care can change over time, decreasing the condition of parents that experience prolonged parental care. Thus, males can modulate parental effort based in the relative fitness cost/benefit pay-offs under different stages and environmental conditions. The present study assesses the condition of parental males of Abedus dilatatus Say by measuring their lipid, glycogen and carbohydrate contents. We compare the condition in parental males that have experienced recent and prolonged care and that were also collected in the summer and winter. Waterbug males provide parental care via carrying and ventilating eggs on their back. Winter males are smaller and carry fewer eggs compared with summer males. Males with recent care and carrying more eggs present a more lipid content. However, at the end of care, males carrying more eggs present less lipids than males with smaller egg-pads. Additionally, we find that males collected in the summer present more carbohydrates than males in the winter. Moreover, larger males with prolonged care present less carbohydrates than smaller males, in contrast to males with recent care where there is a positive relationship between size and carbohydrate content. Our results suggest that parental care in A. dilatatus may be a sexually-selected trait, as has been found in related species, and further experiments could test this idea. This is the first study to provide evidence of physiological costs related to exclusive paternal care in arthropods.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
JournalPhysiological Entomology
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 30 Jul 2019


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