Quantitative genetic modeling of the parental care hypothesis for the evolution of endothermy
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There are two heuristic explanations proposed for the evolution of endothermy in vertebrates: a correlated response to selection for stable body temperatures, or as a correlated response to increased activity. Parental care has been suggested as a major driving force in this context given its impact on the parents' activity levels and energy budgets, and in the offspring's growth rates due to food provisioning and controlled incubation temperature. This results in a complex scenario involving multiple traits and transgenerational fitness benefits that can be hard to disentangle, quantify and ultimately test. Here we demonstrate how standard quantitative genetic models of maternal effects can be applied to study the evolution of endothermy, focusing on the interplay between daily energy expenditure (DEE) of the mother and growth rates of the offspring. Our model shows that maternal effects can dramatically exacerbate evolutionary responses to selection in comparison to regular univariate models (breeder's equation). This effect would emerge from indirect selection mediated by maternal effects concomitantly with a positive genetic covariance between DEE and growth rates. The multivariate nature of selection, which could favor a higher DEE, higher growth rates or both, might partly explain how high turnover rates were continuously favored in a self-reinforcing process. Overall, our quantitative genetic analysis provides support for the parental care hypothesis for the evolution of endothermy. We contend that much has to be gained from quantifying maternal and developmental effects on metabolic and thermoregulatory variation during adulthood.