Evol Ecol Res 19: 227-241 (2018)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

The role of mortality risk in parental behaviour

Rebecca K. Pike, John N. McNamara and Alasdair I. Houston

School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK

Correspondence: R.K. Pike, School of Biological Sciences, Life Sciences Building, University of Bristol, 24 Tyndall Avenue, Bristol BS8 1TQ, UK. email: bex.pike@bristol.ac.uk


Background: A parent feeding its young during the breeding season faces a trade-off between mortality risk and provisioning young with food for growth.

Question: How should the parent behave to maximize reproductive success when mortality to both parent and young are considered?

Mathematical method: Using an optimality model, we establish new formulae to describe parental behaviour when there is a trade-off between growth rate of the young and mortality risk to both parent and young.

Key assumptions: We consider mortality functions for both parent and young. These comprise the sum of a background mortality risk and a mortality risk attributed to parental behaviour.

Conclusions: Mortality is an important parameter in the determination of parental behaviour. As the dependence of the mortality of the young on parental effort grows, a parent should invest a greater proportion of time in being vigilant for predators. An increase in other mortality parameters prompts the opposite effect. Mortality should be described by multiple parameters to predict fully how a parent should behave.

Keywords: growth rate, mortality risk, optimality model, parental care.

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