Parental care is a behavioural and evolutionary strategy adopted by some animals, involving a parental investment being made to the evolutionary fitness of offspring. Patterns of parental care are widespread and highly diverse across the animal kingdom.There is great variation in different animal groups in terms of how parents care for offspring, and the amount of resources invested by parents. For example, there may be considerable variation in the amount of care invested by each sex, where females may invest more in some species, males invest more in others, or investment may be shared equally. Numerous hypotheses have been proposed to describe this variation and patterns in parental care that exist between the sexes, as well as among species.
Parental care may refer to any behaviour that contributes to offspring survival. Forms of care may include the preparing of a physical rearing environment, the provisioning of offspring or the defending of offspring from predators. Species such as ectothermic vertebrates may produce self-sufficient young, and thus no parental care is required. Conversely in other animal groups, offspring may be underdeveloped and lacking independence at birth, thereby relying on parents for nutrition and the teaching of basic survival skills. Parental care may be beneficial if offspring survival, quality or reproductive success is improved, as this ultimately increases the parent’s inclusive fitness. Since parental care is costly and often affects the parent’s own future survival and reproductive success, parents will make sure that any investment made into their offspring is well-spent. Since parental care involves the expenditure of resources, parental care will thus only evolve in a species that requires care.
Types of parental care may include maternal or paternal care, biparental care and alloparental care. Sexual conflict is known to occur over mating, and further familail conflicts may continue after mating when there is parental care of the eggs or young. For example, conflict may arise between male and female parents over how much care each should provide, conflict may arise between siblings over how much care each should demand, and conflicts may arise between parents and offspring over the supply and demand of care.
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Although parental care increases the evolutionary fitness of the offspring receiving the care, it produces a cost for the parent organism as energy is expended on caring for the offspring, and mating opportunities may be lost. Due to the associated costs of parental care, this will only evolve in a species from a previous condition of no parental care when the costs to the parent associated with providing the care are outweighed by the benefits to the offspring receiving the care.
Biological Basis of Parental Behavior
Locate and read a recent, full-text article from the Capella library about the biological basis of parental behavior. Compare and contrast the neural structures and chemicals involved with maternal behavior with those involved with paternal behavior. How might these neural underpinnings relate to how men and women are socialized to care for their children? Reference your source in standard APA format.
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Discussion Questions (DQ)
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