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Maternal presence facilitates plasticity in offspring behavior: insights into the evolution of parental care


Munch, KL and Noble, DWA and Budd, LJT and Row, A and Wapstra, E and While, GM, Maternal presence facilitates plasticity in offspring behavior: insights into the evolution of parental care, Behavioral Ecology, 29, (6) pp. 1298-1306. ISSN 1045-2249 (2018) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

© The Author(s) 2018

DOI: doi:10.1093/beheco/ary122


Fundamental to the definition of parental care is that care confers benefits to the offspring. However, the mechanisms resulting in these benefits remain poorly understood, particularly in species where postnatal care is not obligatory. Here, we address this shortcoming using a lizard, Liopholis whitii, in which family life is facultative and relatively simple - extending to prolonged associations between parents and offspring within the parental territory. Using a split-clutch design, we housed offspring either with their mother or alone during the first 8 weeks of postnatal life and examined whether maternal presence affected 1) the expression of key functional behaviors and 2) learning ability in a biologically relevant antipredatory task. We found that offspring housed with their mothers expressed heightened levels of activity, boldness, and exploration compared with offspring who were housed alone. Furthermore, we show that associating with mothers during early postnatal periods led to improved offspring performance in the antipredation learning task. Together these results suggest that even relatively simple forms of enhanced parent-offspring association can have significant impacts on offspring traits. We argue that such effects may help refine and stabilize parent–offspring associations early in their evolution, potentially setting the stage for the elaboration of both parent and offspring behaviors.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:development, learning, parental care, sociality, reptile
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Ecology
Research Field:Behavioural ecology
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in the biological sciences
UTAS Author:Munch, KL (Ms Kirke Munch)
UTAS Author:Noble, DWA (Dr Dan Noble)
UTAS Author:Budd, LJT (Mr Luke Budd)
UTAS Author:Row, A (Mrs Aryana Row)
UTAS Author:Wapstra, E (Professor Erik Wapstra)
UTAS Author:While, GM (Associate Professor Geoff While)
ID Code:128576
Year Published:2018
Funding Support:Australian Research Council (DP150102900)
Web of Science® Times Cited:7
Deposited By:Zoology
Deposited On:2018-10-01
Last Modified:2019-03-05

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