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Original Research ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Ecol. Evol. | doi: 10.3389/fevo.2019.00448

Turn-taking between provisioning parents: partitioning alternation

  • 1Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW), Netherlands
  • 2Anglia Ruskin University, United Kingdom

How parents negotiate over parental care is a central issue in evolutionary biology because it affects the evolutionary outcome of sexual conflict. A recent theoretical model shows that ‘turn-taking’ in provisioning visits by the parents is an evolutionarily stable negotiation strategy, and empirical studies have shown that parental nest-visits do indeed alternate more than expected by chance. However, such alternation may also be generated by a refractory period, or by correlated temporal heterogeneity (CTH) in provisioning rates of the two parents driven by temporal environmental variation. Here we use a recently developed measure of alternation and a novel measure of CTH in the provisioning rates of pairs to clarify what can be concluded about the occurrence of turn-taking from the provisioning patterns of pairs. First, we show using a simulation model that turn-taking can, by itself, generate both a refractory period and CTH in provisioning rates. Second, we incorporate this insight into a conceptual framework that combines an existing randomization analysis with a novel analytical approach in which ‘pseudo-pairs’ are created by analytically pairing the provisioning sequence of a parent at one nest with the contemporaneous provisioning sequence of the other-sex parent at a nearby nest. This allows us to partition the alternation score into different components. This approach confirms that isolating a component of alternation that can be unequivocally attributed to turn-taking is probably impossible. However, the pseudo-pairs analysis does isolate a component that can be unequivocally attributed to general temporal environmental variation (environmental variation that causes CTH in provisioning rates across [as well as within] pairs). Third, we use these techniques to partition the alternation score of 17 pairs of great tits Parus major provisioning in the wild. Approximately 8% of the observed alternation score is due to the frequency distribution of the inter-visit intervals, 74% to nest-specific effects on the sequence of inter-visit intervals, and 18% to general effects on the sequence of inter-visit intervals. This last component can be unequivocally attributed to general temporal environmental variation, and is the first empirical demonstration of alternation by free-living provisioning parents being generated by temporal environmental variation.

Keywords: sexual conflict, negotiation, Provisioning, turn-taking, coordination, synchrony

Received: 27 Jun 2019; Accepted: 07 Nov 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Baldan, Hinde and Lessells. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Davide Baldan, Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW), Wageningen, Netherlands,