Parents often have important influences on the development of traits in their offspring. One mechanism by which parents are able to influence offspring phenotype is through the level of care they provide. In onthophagine dung beetles, parents typically provision their offspring by packing dung fragments into a brood mass. Onthophagus taurus males can be separated into two discrete morphs: Large, “major” males have head horns, whereas “minor” males are hornless. Here we show that a switch in parental provisioning strategies adopted by males coincides with the switch in male morphology. Male provisioning results in the production of heavier brood masses than females will produce alone. However, unlike females in which the level of provisioning increases with body size in a continuous manner, the level of provisioning provided by males represents an “all-or-none” tactic with all major males providing a fixed level of provisioning irrespective of their body size. Offspring size is determined largely by the quantity of dung provided to the developing larvae so that paternal and maternal provisioning affects the body size and horn size of offspring produced. The levels of provisioning by individual parents are significantly repeatable, suggesting paternal and maternal effects as candidate indirect genetic effects in the evolution of horn size in the genus Onthophagus.
Corresponding Editor: D. Wheeler