“Effects of offspring and parental inbreeding on parent-offspring communication”

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Sarah N. Mattey, Jon Richardson, Tom Ratz, and Per T. Smiseth (June 2018)

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Outbred parents provide more care inbred offspring to compensate for the detrimental effects of poor genetic quality

Female Nicrophorus vespilloides provisioning food to a begging larva.
(Credit: Per T. Smiseth)

Abstract

There is mounting evidence that inbreeding can have complex effects on social interactions among inbred and outbred individuals. Here, we investigate effects of offspring and maternal inbreeding on parent-offspring communication in the burying beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides. We find effects of the interaction between offspring and maternal inbreeding on maternal behavior. Outbred females provided more direct care towards inbred larvae, while inbred females provided similar levels of direct care towards inbred and outbred larvae. Furthermore, we find direct and indirect effects of offspring inbreeding on offspring begging and maternal behavior, respectively. Inbred larvae spent less time begging than outbred larvae, and (outbred) females provided more direct care and less indirect care towards inbred larvae. Finally, we find effects of the interaction between offspring and maternal inbreeding on larval body mass. Inbred and outbred offspring grew to a similar size when the female was outbred, whilst inbred offspring were smaller size when the female was inbred. Our results suggest that outbred females provided more care towards inbred offspring to compensate for their poor genetic quality. Our study advances our understanding of inbreeding by showing that inbreeding can have direct effects on the behavior of inbred individuals and indirect effects on the behavior of outbred individuals, and that indirect effects on outbred individuals, in turn, may influence the fitness of inbred individuals.