• How to Design Experiments in Animal Behaviour: 15. Why Do Parents and Offspring Quarrel?

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      Free-ranging dogs, stray dogs, parental investment, parent-offspring conflict, grandmother care, alloparenting.

    • Abstract


      Since all of us have been children at some time in our lives, and many of us have also been parents at other times, we are well aware of the psychological and physiological importance of parental care, both for the offspring as well as for the parents. But at the same time, we are also painfully aware that there is often some conflict between parents and their offspring about the amount of parental investment that should flow from parents to offspring. As evolutionary biologists, however, we must pause and ask: why the conflict? According to the theory of natural selection, living organisms are expected to maximize their Darwinian fitness. Since offspring are the currency of Darwinian fitness, should not ‘parent-offspring conflict’ be an oxymoron? Why should there be a conflict between parents and offspring? Offspring should be selected to survive and grow, and have offspring of their own, and parents should be selected to do everything in their power to help the offspring to achieve their goals. Indeed, there is no parent-offspring conflict in some species, notably, in those species that produce a single offspring or produce all their offspring in one go, and die. There is nothing more important for parents of such species than the welfare of their offspring, leaving no scope for parent-offspring conflict.

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