Parental care is an immensely variable social behavior, and sexual conflict offers a powerful paradigm to understand this diversity. Conflict over care (usually considered as a type of postzygotic sexual conflict) is common, because the evolutionary interests of male and female parents are rarely identical. I investigate how sexual conflict over care may facilitate the emergence and maintenance of diverse parenting strategies and argue that researchers should combine two fundamental concepts in social behavior to understand care patterns: cooperation and conflict. Behavioral evidence of conflict over care is well established, studies have estimated specific fitness implications of conflict for males or females, and experiments have investigated specific components of conflict. However, studies are long overdue to reveal the full implications of conflict for both males and females. Manipulating (or harming) the opposite sex seems less common in postzygotic conflicts than in prezygotic conflicts because by manipulating, coercing, or harming the opposite sex, the reproductive interest of the actor is also reduced. Parental care is a complex trait, although fewstudies have yet considered the implications of multidimensionality for parental conflict. Future research in parental conflict will benefit fromunderstanding the behavioral interactions between male and female parents (e.g., negotiation, learning, and coercion), the genetic and neurogenomic bases of parental behavior, and the influence of social environment on parental strategies. Empirical studies are needed to put sexual conflict in a population context and reveal feedback between mate choice, pair bonds and parenting strategies, and their demographic consequences for the population such as mortalities and sex ratios. Taken together, sexual conflict offers a fascinating avenue for understanding the causes and consequences of parenting behavior, sex roles, and breeding system evolution.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)