Social behaviours are highly variable between species, populations and individuals. However, it is contentious whether behavioural variations are primarily moulded by the environment, caused by genetic differences, or a combination of both. Here we establish that biparental care, a complex social behaviour that involves rearing of young by both parents, differs between closely related populations, and then test two potential sources of variation in parental behaviour between populations: ambient environment and genetic differentiation. We use 2904 hours behavioural data from 10 geographically distinct Kentish (Charadrius alexandrinus) and snowy plover (C. nivosus) populations in America, Europe, the Middle East and North Africa to test these two sources of behavioural variation. We show that local ambient temperature has a significant influence on parental care: with extreme heat (above 40°C) total incubation (i.e. % of time the male or female incubated the nest) increased, and female share (% female share of incubation) decreased. By contrast, neither genetic differences between populations, nor geographic distances predicted total incubation or female's share of incubation. These results suggest that the local environment has a stronger influence on a social behaviour than genetic differentiation, at least between populations of closely related species.
Vincze, O., Székely, T., Küpper, C., AlRashidi, M., Amat, J. A., Argüelles Ticó, A., Burgas, D., Burke, T., Cavitt, J., Figuerola, J., Shobrak, M., Montalvo, T., & Kosztolányi, A. (2013). Local environment but not genetic differentiation influences biparental care in ten plover populations. PLoS ONE, 8(4), [e60998]. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0060998