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Concept: Offspring


In most species, males do not abandon offspring or reduce paternal care when they are cuckolded by other males. This apparent lack of adjustment of paternal investment with the likelihood of paternity presents a potential challenge to our understanding of what drives selection for paternal care. In a comparative analysis across birds, fish, mammals, and insects we identify key factors that explain why cuckolded males in many species do not reduce paternal care. Specifically, we show that cuckolded males only reduce paternal investment if both the costs of caring are relatively high and there is a high risk of cuckoldry. Under these circumstances, selection is expected to favour males that reduce paternal effort in response to cuckoldry. In many species, however, these conditions are not satisfied and tolerant males have outcompeted males that abandon young.

Concepts: Human, Reproduction, Species, Understanding, Mammal, Offspring, Parental investment, Cuckold


Offspring survival can often depend on successful communication with parents about their state of need. Theory suggests that offspring will be less likely to honestly signal their need when they experience greater competition from either a greater number of nestmates or less-related nestmates. We found support for this hypothesis with a comparative analysis, examining data from across 60 species of birds. We found that offspring are less honest about their level of need when (i) they face competition from current siblings; (ii) their parents are likely to breed again, and so they are in competition with future siblings; and (iii) parental divorce or death means that they are likely to be less related to future siblings. More generally, these patterns highlight the sensitivity of communication systems to conflict between signaler and receiver while also suggesting that when there is little conflict, natural selection favors the honest.

Concepts: Family, Natural selection, Parent, Signal, Sibling, Offspring, Parental investment, Divorce


Parental investment in Arapaima gigas includes nest building and guarding, followed by a care provision when a cephalic fluid is released from the parents' head to the offspring. This fluid has presumably important functions for the offspring but so far its composition has not been characterised. In this study the proteome and peptidome of the cephalic secretion was studied in parental and non-parental fish using capillary electrophoresis coupled to mass spectrometry (CE-MS) and GeLC-MS/MS analyses. Multiple comparisons revealed 28 peptides were significantly different between males and parental males (PC-males), 126 between females and parental females (PC-females), 51 between males and females and 9 between PC-males and PC-females. Identification revealed peptides were produced in the inner ear (pcdh15b), eyes (tetraspanin and ppp2r3a), central nervous system (otud4, ribeye a, tjp1b and syn1) among others. A total of 422 proteins were also identified and gene ontology analysis revealed 28 secreted extracellular proteins. From these, 2 hormones (prolactin and stanniocalcin) and 12 proteins associated to immunological processes (serotransferrin, α-1-antitrypsin homolog, apolipoprotein A-I, and others) were identified. This study provides novel biochemical data on the lateral line fluid which will enable future hypotheses-driven experiments to better understand the physiological roles of the lateral line in chemical communication.

Concepts: Central nervous system, Nervous system, Protein, Cell, Reproduction, Parent, Gel electrophoresis, Offspring


Peregrine falcons (Falco peregrinus) were extirpated from most of the continental United States by widespread use of the pesticide DDT in the 1960s. Populations have rebounded with banning of the pesticide and successful implementation of captive breeding and hacking programs. An essentially new population of Midwestern peregrines now exists that is comprised almost entirely of urban-nesting birds. The new population is considered to be of mixed ancestry, occurs at relatively high densities, and has nest sites in close proximity, factors that could influence breeding behaviors including mate fidelity, nest-site fidelity, extra-pair paternity, and natal dispersal. We investigated these behaviors using a combination of field observations and DNA microsatellite genotyping. Data for eleven microsatellite DNA markers, including eight newly developed for the species, were analyzed from a total of 350 birds from nine Midwestern cities, representing 149 broods collected at 20 nest sites. To document breeding behavior, parentage was inferred by likelihood techniques when both parents were sampled and by parental genotype reconstruction when only one parent was sampled. In cases where neither parent was sampled, a sibship reconstruction approach was used. We found high mate fidelity and nest-site fidelity in urban peregrines; in 122 nesting attempts made by long-term breeders, only 12 (9.8%) mate changes and six (4.9%) nest-site changes occurred. Only one brood (of 35 tested) revealed extra-pair paternity and involved a male tending two offspring of a recently acquired mate. Natal dispersal patterns indicated that female peregrines dispersed on average 226 km, almost twice the distance of males (average 124 km). Despite the novel environment of cities, our results suggest that monogamous breeding, nest fidelity, and female natal dispersal are high in urban peregrines, not unlike other raptors living in non-urban habitats.

Concepts: Genetics, United States, Parent, Sex, Falconry, Falcon, Offspring, Peregrine Falcon


Using the 2011-2012 National Survey of Children’s Health data set, we compared spouse/partner relationships and parent-child relationships (family relationships), parenting stress, and children’s general health, emotional difficulties, coping behavior, and learning behavior (child outcomes) in households of same-sex (female) versus different-sex continuously coupled parents with biological offspring. We assessed whether associations among family relationships, parenting stress, and child outcomes were different in the 2 household types.

Concepts: Family, Personality psychology, Parent, Childhood, Developmental psychology, Household, Mother, Offspring


Models of addiction etiology and treatment emphasize the influence of family-of-origin experiences. Using two addiction-related coping behaviors (ARCBs) common among college women (i.e., problematic alcohol use, disordered eating), we examined whether ARCBs in parents related to matching ARCBs in college women offspring. We expected that matching parental ARCBs would relate more strongly to the ARCBs in offspring than more distal/general family factors. A total of 197 college women completed measures of family dynamics, parental difficulties with alcohol, family focus on appearance and weight, personal difficulties with alcohol use, and disordered eating. A significant indirect effect for family dysfunction on disordered eating and alcohol-related problems was found. That is, family relationship difficulties predicted parents' ARCBs, which predicted matching ARCBs in participants (e.g., parental alcohol problems predicted participant alcohol problems). Matched parental ARCBs were better predictors of participants' ARCBs than more general/distal family factors and non-matched ARCBs. Specifically, path analysis and testing of beta weights supported specificity of parental ARCBs for predicting matching offspring ARCBs. Implications of study findings for tailoring prevention efforts are discussed.

Concepts: Family, Regression analysis, Prediction, Parent, Addiction, Offspring, Narcissistic parents, Dysfunctional family


To investigate the comparative effects of prenatal exposure to silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) functionalized with citrate and polyphenols on spatial cognition and also on nitro-oxidative stress and apoptosis in the hippocampus and cerebellum of offsprings.

Concepts: Psychology, Brain, Nanotechnology, Offspring, The Offspring


The prenatal environment can alter an individual’s developmental trajectory with long-lasting effects on health. Animal models demonstrate that the impact of the early life environment extends to subsequent generations, but there is a paucity of data from human populations on intergenerational transmission of environmentally induced phenotypes. Here we investigated the association of parental exposure to energy and nutrient restriction in utero on their children’s growth in rural Gambia. In a Gambian cohort with infants born between 1972 and 2011, we used multiple regression to test whether parental season of birth predicted offspring birth weight (n = 2097) or length (n = 1172), height-for-age z-score (HAZ), weight-for-height z-score (WHZ), and weight-for-age z-score (WAZ) at 2 yr of age (n = 923). We found that maternal exposure to seasonal energy restriction in utero was associated with reduced offspring birth length (crude:-4.2 mm, P = 0.005; adjusted: -4.0 mm, P = 0.02). In contrast, paternal birth season predicted offspring HAZ at 24 mo (crude: -0.21, P = 0.005; adjusted: -0.22, P = 0.004) but had no discernible impact at birth. Our results indicate that periods of nutritional restriction in a parent’s fetal life can have intergenerational consequences in human populations. Fetal growth appears to be under matriline influence, and postnatal growth appears to be under patriline intergenerational influences.-Eriksen, K. G., Radford, E. J., Silver, M. J., Fulford, A. J. C., Wegmüller, R., Prentice, A. M. Influence of intergenerational in utero parental energy and nutrient restriction on offspring growth in rural Gambia.

Concepts: Regression analysis, Pregnancy, Childbirth, Infant, Uterus, Ecology, Parent, Offspring


A nongenetic, transgenerational effect of parental age on offspring fitness has been described in many taxa in the laboratory. Such a transgenerational fitness effect will have important influences on population dynamics, population age structure, and the evolution of aging and lifespan. However, effects of parental age on offspring lifetime fitness have never been demonstrated in a natural population. We show that parental age has sex-specific negative effects on lifetime fitness, using data from a pedigreed insular population of wild house sparrows. Birds whose parents were older produced fewer recruits annually than birds with younger parents, and the reduced number of recruits translated into a lifetime fitness difference. Using a long-term cross-fostering experiment, we demonstrate that this parental age effect is unlikely to be the result of changes in the environment but that it potentially is epigenetically inherited. Our study reveals the hidden consequences of late-life reproduction that persist into the next generation.

Concepts: Senescence, Population, Natural environment, Parent, Gerontology, Aging, Offspring, Parental investment


Advancing paternal and maternal age have both been associated with risk for autism spectrum disorders (ASD). However, the shape of the association remains unclear, and results on the joint associations is lacking. This study tests if advancing paternal and maternal ages are independently associated with ASD risk and estimates the functional form of the associations. In a population-based cohort study from five countries (Denmark, Israel, Norway, Sweden and Western Australia) comprising 5 766 794 children born 1985-2004 and followed up to the end of 2004-2009, the relative risk (RR) of ASD was estimated by using logistic regression and splines. Our analyses included 30 902 cases of ASD. Advancing paternal and maternal age were each associated with increased RR of ASD after adjusting for confounding and the other parent’s age (mothers 40-49 years vs 20-29 years, RR=1.15 (95% confidence interval (CI): 1.06-1.24), P-value<0.001; fathers⩾50 years vs 20-29 years, RR=1.66 (95% CI: 1.49-1.85), P-value<0.001). Younger maternal age was also associated with increased risk for ASD (mothers <20 years vs 20-29 years, RR=1.18 (95% CI: 1.08-1.29), P-value<0.001). There was a joint effect of maternal and paternal age with increasing risk of ASD for couples with increasing differences in parental ages. We did not find any support for a modifying effect by the sex of the offspring. In conclusion, as shown in multiple geographic regions, increases in ASD was not only limited to advancing paternal or maternal age alone but also to differences parental age including younger or older similarly aged parents as well as disparately aged parents.Molecular Psychiatry advance online publication, 9 June 2015; doi:10.1038/mp.2015.70.

Concepts: Cohort study, Age, Relative risk, Parent, Autism, Asperger syndrome, Mother, Offspring