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The evolution of simultaneous progressive provisioning revisited: extending the model to overlapping generations

, , , and . Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 71 (8): 127 (Jul 25, 2017)


``Simultaneous progressive provisioners'' feed their offspring gradually as they develop---and typically feed more than one offspring simultaneously (SIM) at a time. In contrast, ``sequential mass provisioners'' supply offspring one after another (SEQ). Utilizing individual-based simulations, Field (Nature 404:869--871, 2005) compared the lifetime reproductive success of these strategies in different scenarios. Accordingly, SEQ should evolve in the majority of cases---SIM only has an evolutionary benefit if offspring depend on their mothers' protection until adulthood even past the provisioning period. However, this is only one potential explanation for the evolution of SIM. Here, we present an alternative mechanism for solitary individuals with overlapping generations. We propose an analytical model (comprising Field's former approach) utilizing growth rate instead of lifetime reproductive success as a measure of fitness. Our model shows that multiplicative geometric effects on fitness would typically compensate for the demographic disadvantages of SIM (due to prolonged dependency) and consequently support the evolution of SIM over SEQ for a wide range of life history parameters. The optimal level of SIM (i.e., the optimal number of eggs laid simultaneously) is determined by offspring development time, survival rates, and foraging efficiency of the mother. Only extreme values of these demographic parameters would favor a transition to SEQ behavior. Our model provides a coherent explanation of selective favoring of SIM over SEQ that may also contribute to understanding why SIM is the dominant strategy among social insect species.

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