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Male care and life history traits in mammals

West, Hannah E.R.; Capellini, Isabella


Hannah E.R. West

Isabella Capellini


Male care has energetic and opportunity costs, and is more likely to evolve when males gain greater certainty of paternity or when future mating opportunities are scarce. However, little is known about the substantial benefits that males may provide to females and offspring. Using phylogenetic comparative methods and a sample of over 500 mammalian species, we show that mammals in which males carry the offspring have shorter lactation periods, which leads to more frequent breeding events. Provisioning the female is associated with larger litters and shorter lactation. Offspring of species with male care have similar weaning mass to those without despite being supported by a shorter lactation period, implying that they grow faster. We propose that males provide an energetic contribution during the most expensive time of female reproduction, lactation, and that different male care behaviours increase female fecundity, which in turn helps males offset the costs of caring.


West, H. E., & Capellini, I. (2016). Male care and life history traits in mammals. Nature communications, 7, 11854.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date May 5, 2016
Online Publication Date Jun 14, 2016
Publication Date Jun 14, 2016
Deposit Date Jun 15, 2016
Publicly Available Date Jun 15, 2016
Journal Nature communications
Electronic ISSN 2041-1723
Publisher Nature Publishing Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 7
Article Number 11854
Pages 11854
Keywords Biological science; Evolution; Zoology
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This is a copy of an open access article published in Nature communications, 2016, v.7.


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