Purdue University Graduate School
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The Effect of Resource Quality on Partner Compensation in a Biparental Species

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posted on 2021-08-04, 16:17 authored by Shane M MurphyShane M Murphy
Sexual conflict arises in biparental species because of the fitness payoffs of shifting the costs of care onto their partner. The negotiation model asserts that parents actively monitor their partner’s level of investment and adjust their own in response generally resulting in partial compensation when a member of the pair reduces their level of investment. The willingness of one parent to compensate for the other’s change is found to be widely variable. Habitat or resource quality available to pairs may explain such variation. It is predicted that the level of compensation by one partner will increase with decreasing resource quality. I tested this prediction with the biparental burying beetle, Nicrophorus orbicollis. Under natural conditions, burying beetles apply costly social immune molecules to carcasses of small vertebrates to preserve nutritional value for young. The goals of this research were (1) to determine if males immunologically compensate when females are immunologically handicapped; and (2) determine the impact of resource quality on compensation. Changes in lysozyme-like-activity (LLA) and phenoloxidase (PO) production in oral and anal secretions were used to quantify social immune investment. Pairs were provided a mouse carcass of one of three qualities: freshly thawed, aged for 3 days, or aged for 7 days. As expected, female LLA decreased once injected with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) irrespective of carcass quality. Injections caused significant down regulation of oral PO in females. Male LLA increased as the quality of carcasses decreased when paired with handicapped females. Males showed no changes in PO across treatments or carcass types. My results demonstrate that males compensate for a change in maternal investment and the level of compensation increases as resource quality decreases.


Degree Type

  • Master of Science


  • Biological Sciences

Campus location

  • Hammond

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

J. Curtis Creighton

Additional Committee Member 2

Vanesa S. Quinn

Additional Committee Member 3

Young D. Choi