The role of mortality risk in parental behaviour

Rebecca Pike, John McNamara, Alasdair Houston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
79 Downloads (Pure)


Background: A parent feeding its young during the breeding season faces a trade-off between mortality risk and provisioning young with food for growth.

Question: How should the parent behave to maximize reproductive success when mortality to both parent and young are considered?

Mathematical method: Using an optimality model, we establish new formulae to describe parental behaviour when there is a trade-off between growth rate of the young and mortality risk to both parent and young.

Key assumptions: We consider mortality functions for both parent and young. These comprise the sum of a background mortality risk and a mortality risk attributed to parental behaviour.

Conclusions: Mortality is an important parameter in the determination of parental behaviour. As the dependence of the mortality of the young on parental effort grows, a parent should invest a greater proportion of time in being vigilant for predators. An increase in other mortality parameters prompts the opposite effect. Mortality should be described by multiple parameters to predict fully how a parent should behave.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)227-241
Number of pages15
JournalEvolutionary Ecology Research
Issue number3
Early online date28 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - May 2018


  • growth rate
  • mortality risk
  • optimality risk
  • parental care


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