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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Does Mother Nature Punish Rotten Kids?


The theory of parent-offspring conflict predicts that mothers and their offspring may not agree about how resources should be allocated among family members. A kid, for example, may favor a later weaning date than does its mother. Despite the mother's physical superiority, it may be that the kid is able to manipulate her behavior. In this paper, we investigate a two-locus population genetic model of weaning conflict in which offspring can attempt to extort resources from their parents by reducing their own chances of survival if their demands are not met. We find that the frequency of recombination between the genes controlling parental behavior and those controlling juvenile behavior determines the evolutionaryoutcome of this genetic conflict. When these genes are tightly linked, the offspring is likely to act so as to further the parents' reproductive interests. When they are not, offspring can successfully "blackmail" their parents into providing additional resources.

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