Birth order, individual sex and sex of competitors determine the outcome of conflict among siblings over parental care

  • Bonisoli-Alquati A
  • Boncoraglio G
  • Caprioli M
 et al. 
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Success in competition for limiting parental resources depends on the interplay between parental decisions over allocation of care and offspring traits. Birth order, individual sex and sex of competing siblings are major candidates as determinants of success in sib-sib competition, but experimental studies focusing on the combined effect of these factors on parent-offspring communication and within-brood competitive dynamics are rare. Here, we assessed individual food intake and body mass gain during feeding trials in barn swallow chicks differing for seniority and sex, and compared the intensity of their acoustic and postural solicitation (begging) displays. Begging intensity and success in competition depended on seniority in combination with individual sex and sex of the opponent. Junior chicks begged more than seniors, independently of satiation level (which was also experimentally manipulated), and obtained greater access to food. Females were generally weaker competitors than males. Individual sex and sex of the opponent also affected duration of begging bouts. Present results thus show that competition with siblings can make the rearing environment variably harsh for developing chicks, depending on individual sex, sex of competing broodmates and age ranking within the nest. They also suggest that parental decisions on the allocation of care and response of kin to signalling siblings may further contribute to the outcome of sibling competition.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Begging
  • Competitive asymmetry
  • Environmental sensitivity
  • Hatching asynchrony
  • Sexual dimorphism
  • Sibling competition

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  • Andrea Bonisoli-Alquati

  • Giuseppe Boncoraglio

  • Manuela Caprioli

  • Nicola Saino

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