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Previous theoretical work on parental decisions in biparental care has emphasized the role of the conflict between evolutionary interests of parents in these decisions. A prominent prediction from this work is that parents should compensate for decreases in each other's effort, but only partially so. However, experimental tests that manipulate parents and measure their responses fail to confirm this prediction. At the same time, the process of parental decision making has remained unexplored theoretically. We develop a model to address the discrepancy between experiments and the theoretical prediction, and explore how assuming different decision making processes changes the prediction from the theory.
We assume that parents make decisions in behavioral time. They have a fixed time budget, and allocate it between two parental tasks: provisioning the offspring and defending the nest. The proximate determinant of the allocation decisions are parents' behavioral objectives. We assume both parents aim to maximize the offspring production from the nest. Experimental manipulations change the shape of the nest production function. We consider two different scenarios for how parents make decisions: one where parents communicate with each other and act together (the perfect family), and one where they do not communicate, and act independently (the almost perfect family).
The perfect family model is able to generate all the types of responses seen in experimental studies. The kind of response predicted depends on the nest production function, i.e. how parents' allocations affect offspring production, and the type of experimental manipulation. In particular, we find that complementarity of parents' allocations promotes matching responses. In contrast, the relative responses do not depend on the type of manipulation in the almost perfect family model. These results highlight the importance of the interaction between nest production function and how parents make decisions, factors that have largely been overlooked in previous models.
This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.
Akçay, E., & Roughgarden, J. (2009). The Perfect Family: Decision Making in Biparental Care. PLOS ONE, 4 (10), e7345-. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0007345
Date Posted: 30 September 2015
This document has been peer reviewed.