Day 056 - Favourite children

Submitted by Sam on 15 July, 2011 - 21:10

As far as proportions of genes are concerned, there should be no reason why a parent should invest more time and energy in one offspring rather than another, as each parent has the same relatedness to their children. Although it would seem that a parent might best serve the proliferation of their genes by investing equally in all of their children, there are invariably differences in life-expectancy between a range of offspring, and some are better bets than others. Despite containing the same proportion of their parent's genetic material as their siblings, undersized or otherwise disadvantaged children (or runts of litters) have a much lower life expectancy, and so would require a greater than normal parental investment just to be given an equal chance as the more advantaged children. In such cases, it may be worthwhile for the mother to invest more in her other children and refuse to feed the weakest child, instead spreading its allocation of 'parental investment' to the other children. Following this line of reasoning to its logical conclusion suggests that the optimum strategy might in fact involve eating the runt, or feeding it to its siblings in order to reclaim some of the lost investment in energy.

This imbalance creates a tension between the generations, as children endeavour to manipulate their parents in order to receive more than their fair share of investment, whilst parents must endeavour to identify such exploitation and allocate resources in the most (genetically speaking) efficient way possible.

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