How sex-biased dispersal affects conflict over parental investment
Abstract Existing models of parental investment have mainly focused on interactions at the level of the family, and have paid much less attention to the impact of population-level processes. Here we extend classical models of parental care to assess the impact of population structure and limited dispersal. We find that sex-differences in dispersal substantially affect the amount of care provided by each parent, with the more philopatric sex providing the majority of the care to young. This effect is most pronounced in highly viscous populations: in such cases, when classical models would predict stable biparental care, inclusion of a modest sex difference in dispersal leads to uniparental care by the philopatric sex. In addition, mating skew also affects sex-differences in parental investment, with the more numerous sex providing most of the care. However, the effect of mating skew only holds when parents care for their own offspring. When individuals breed communally, we recover the previous finding that the more philopatric sex provides most of the care, even when it is the rare sex. Finally, we show that sex-differences in dispersal can mask the existence of sex-specific costs of care, because the philopatric sex may provide most of the care even in the face of far higher mortality costs relative to the dispersing sex. We conclude that sex-biased dispersal is likely to be an important, yet currently overlooked driver of sex-differences in parental care.