About this Research Topic
Reproduction is a complicated affair. Parents across diverse taxa face repeated decisions about how best to allocate their limited resources to offspring and must balance the benefits of supporting their current young against the associated costs to their future reproductive success. Equally, offspring must balance the costs of demanding and competing for resources against the benefits to be gained. These decisions become more complex when multiple individuals provide care, and when care takes multiple different forms. Parents and offspring cannot simply choose in isolation how much they will contribute or demand: they must respond to other family members such that they partition tasks effectively, maximize the benefit of each discrete care event, and avoid being exploited. We refer to this responsiveness as coordination.
What does coordinated care look like? The rules that family members follow when responding to one another are likely to vary with the social and ecological context, both within and between species. Recent studies of parental coordination, for instance, support theoretical predictions that carers should often respond to the contributions of their partner, but many questions remain about how - and to what extent - this 'negotiation' takes place, and how parents divide the work across different dimensions of care. In general, we should expect behavioral rules leading to coordination to minimize costs (e.g. predation risk to carers and offspring) and to maximize benefits (e.g. to ensure offspring are not over- or under-cared for at any point). Moreover, such benefits of coordination may also apply when offspring compete with each other for care, and in cooperative care groups with a variety of breeding systems. The potential for and existence of behavioral response rules in these contexts is still poorly understood.
Recent advances in remote monitoring technology and biotelemetry have greatly increased our ability to collect care data across longer periods and in greater detail. However, to use these data to answer questions about coordination we need clear predictions, effective analysis methods, and to integrate results across taxa and contexts. The goal of this Research Topic is to highlight current empirical, theoretical, and methodological research on reproductive coordination, establish what we currently understand and can study effectively, and provide a clear outline of the questions that still remain and how they might be addressed.
Understanding coordination relies on interpreting patterns of care delivery and behavioral responsiveness across contexts, and so the scope of this Research Topic extends to any research on how individuals within a family respond to each other's behavior, regardless of breeding system. In addition to original research articles, we welcome brief research reports, hypothesis and theory articles, reviews, mini-reviews, methods, perspectives, and data reports as contributions to this Research Topic. We particularly encourage contributions about non-avian species, as studies on birds are overrepresented in the existing literature on coordination.
Keywords: Alternation, Parental care, Sexual conflict, Synchrony, Task partitioning
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