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Journal of Ornithology

, Volume 148, Supplement 2, pp 211–217 | Cite as

Sexual conflict over parental care: a case study of shorebirds

  • Tamás SzékelyEmail author
  • András Kosztolányi
  • Clemens Küpper
  • Gavin H. Thomas
Review

Abstract

Shorebirds provide excellent model organisms to study breeding system evolution. We argue that sexual conflict theory is a useful approach to understand breeding system evolution in general, and specifically in shorebirds. Here, we focus on two major questions: (1) why do species shift from biparental care to uniparental care, and (2) why do some species shift toward female-biased care whereas others shift toward male-biased care? We overview recent phylogenetic and experimental studies that address these two questions. Firstly, current evidence suggests that the demand of chicks has a major influence on whether a species exhibits biparental or uniparental care. The demand of chicks has further implications for phenotypic rates of evolution. Secondly, experimental manipulations in the field using a small shorebird, the Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus, are consistent with the idea that the shift from biparental care toward male-biased care relates to female-biased mating opportunities, and thus to higher remating probability for deserting females than for deserting males. Finally, we call for further studies of shorebirds, since the breeding system of most species has not been studied in detail. Long-term monitoring of population ecology, breeding systems and behaviour, and experimental manipulations and genetic analyses, are all needed to test predictions of sexual conflict theory.

Keywords

Breeding system Sexual conflict Parental care Offspring desertion Kentish Plover 

Notes

Acknowledgments

T.S. was supported by NERC (GR3/10957), BBSRC (BBS/B/05788), a Research Fellowship by The Leverhulme Trust (RF/2/RFG/2005/0279) and a Hrdy Visiting Fellowship of Harvard University. A.K. was funded by an Eötvös Scholarship and The Royal Society/NATO (16313). C.K.’s project is supported by NERC Genetic Facility Grant (MGF 140/2006). G.H.T. is a NERC-funded research associate at the Centre for Population Biology, Imperial College, London.

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Copyright information

© Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tamás Székely
    • 1
    Email author
  • András Kosztolányi
    • 1
  • Clemens Küpper
    • 1
  • Gavin H. Thomas
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Biology and BiochemistryUniversity of BathBathUK
  2. 2.NERC Centre for Population BiologyImperial College LondonAscotUK

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