Project Director

Klug, Hope

Department Examiner

Qin, Hong; Bonsall, Mike


Dept. of Biological and Environmental Sciences


University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Place of Publication

Chattanooga (Tenn.)


Parental care is a fundamental life-history trait that is found in many animals (reviewed in Royle et al. 2012). Parental care can include behaviors such as egg cleaning (Knouft et al. 2003), egg guarding (Royle et al. 2012, pg. 4), egg provisioning (Simmons & Parker 1989; Hilker & Meiners 2002; Royle et al. 2012, pg. 2), and oviposition-site selection (Refsnider & Janzen 2010). Such forms of parental care typically result in the spatial clumping of parents and their offspring. This often leads to density effects on within-clutch egg mortality, meaning that when within-clutch egg density increases, egg mortality also increases. These forms of parental care, and many others, commonly co-occur with other behaviors such as offspring abandonment (Lack 1954; Rettig 1978; Clark & Wilson 1981; Nuechterlein & Johnson 1981; Maple 2002) and filial cannibalism (i.e., the consumption of one’s offspring; Rohwer 1978; Hoelzer 1995; Payne et al. 2002; Klemme et al. 2006; Klug & Bonsall 2007). Offspring abandonment and filial cannibalism have typically been viewed as evolutionary conundrums that are contradictory to parental care (e.g., Klug & Bonsall 2007). To the best of our knowledge, the idea that offspring abandonment and filial cannibalism might themselves actually be forms of parental care, even in the absence of other more conventional care behaviors, has not been explicitly considered previously. In this study, we outline how abandonment and filial cannibalism might serve as forms of care, particularly during the early evolution of care when there are density effects on within-clutch egg mortality, and we then develop a mathematical model of offspring abandonment and filial cannibalism to determine whether these behaviors can function as forms of parental care and be selected for evolutionarily.


This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1552721 (to Hope Klug).


B. S.; An honors thesis submitted to the faculty of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of Bachelor of Science.




Parental behavior in animals


Parental care; Offspring abandonment; Filial cannibalism; Density effects


Environmental Sciences

Document Type



30 leaves




Under copyright.