This will bug mothers... insect fathers also shirk childcare duties
THE responsibilities for childcare have traditionally fallen to women while men go out to work, but even when mothers are the major breadwinner, statistics by the Office for National Statistics show that women do 40 per cent more household chores than their partners.
It appears the animal kingdom is little different. A study by the Universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh has found that male burying beetles will shirk their duties if there is a female around to help.
Males and females gave equal care when raising young alone, but when raising young together, males gave less care, forcing females to compensate by taking on more of the workload. They are also far more likely to abandon the family than females.
Researchers wanted to find out if this “shirking” of responsibility was bad for the offspring, and if it would be better to be raised by a single parent. A recent study looking at zebra finches suggested the chicks suffered when raised jointly by a father and mother.
However, the new research, published in the Proceedings of the Royal
Society B, showed that when offspring were raised by two parents, they still grew better and had higher survival rates than when raised by either a single male or female parent, regardless of how much effort was put in by each.
Experts said that “biparental care”, when parents cooperate to provide care for their offspring, is observed in many species including in birds, fishes, insects and mammals.
Dr Natalie Pilakouta, from the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine, asked: “Are offspring ever better off with two parents working together than a single parent working alone? We show that this is indeed the case in burying beetles: offspring reared by both parents grow larger and have higher survival [rates].
“This might help explain why biparental care has evolved in so many species across the animal kingdom.”
Researchers chose burying beetles for the study because 52 per cent of the insects co-parent, while 39 per cent of offspring are brought up by the female alone, and 3 per cent just by the male.
In breeding, the parents live up to their name by burying a small carcass and laying eggs on it, which then hatch and the larvae begin eating the carcass. They are also fed by the parents for five days after hatching. For the study, scientists set up breeding conditions using 40 co-parenting pairs and 49 single parents pairs and monitored them for 30 minutes to find out how often the beetles tended to their offspring.
The results showed that when working jointly with a partner, males provided around two minutes of care in the period, while females provided roughly 10 minutes. Single parent families in contrast provided just eight minutes of direct care. Similarly, just 5 per cent of females were seen to abandon their brood while jointly parenting compared to 35 per cent of males.
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