Begging behavior as an honest signal of need and parent-offspring association during the post-fledging dependency period

Ecology and Evolution
By: , and 

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Abstract

Honest signaling mechanisms can function to appropriate care to hungry offspring and avoid misdirected care of unrelated offspring. Begging, the behavior by which offspring solicit food and parental care, may be an honest signaling mechanism for need, as well as association of parents and offspring. Roseate terns (Sterna dougallii) exhibit prolonged parental care during the post-breeding staging period, offering an ideal system in which to study begging as an honest signaling mechanism. We conducted focal sampling during two pre-migratory staging seasons (2014 and 2015) at Cape Cod National Seashore, MA to determine whether post-fledging tern begging behavior was an honest signal for need and parent-offspring association. Based on honest signaling theory, we expected begging behavior to be highest during times of high perceived need, and we expected to see a decrease in begging behavior as young terns became increasingly independent of the care-giving parent. Also, we predicted that young terns would be more likely to beg at parents than non-parents. We found that young roseate terns begged at their parents more often than non-parents; however, they did not always beg at parents. Model predictions of begging probability showed a linear relationship between begging and time of day and date of season, such that begging increased with time of day and decreased with date of season, respectively. Our results provide evidence for honest parent-offspring interactions and are inconsistent with parent-offspring conflict theory but suggest that begging may play a complex role in post-fledging parent-offspring interactions.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Begging behavior as an honest signal of need and parent-offspring association during the post-fledging dependency period
Series title Ecology and Evolution
DOI 10.1002/ece3.5279
Volume 9
Issue 13
Year Published 2019
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
Description 12 p.
First page 7497
Last page 7508
Country United States
State Massachusetts
Other Geospatial Cape Cod