Evolutionary Ecology

, Volume 26, Issue 1, pp 139–147 | Cite as

Unravelling the effects of differential maternal allocation and male genetic quality on offspring viability in the dung beetle, Onthophagus sagittarius

  • Nicola L. Watson
  • Leigh W. Simmons
Original Paper


Good genes models of mate choice assume heritability of fitness-related traits. However, maternal effects can inflate estimates of trait heritability, and genotype-environment interactions can have significant effects on good genes processes of evolution. Thus, partitioning genetic and maternal/environmental sources of variation in studies of good genes mate choice represents an empirical challenge. In this study, we used the dung beetle Onthophagus sagittarius to examine additive genetic and maternal effects on egg-to-adult offspring viability. We used a half-sib full-sib breeding design and manipulated the maternally provided environment by reducing or increasing the mass of the brood ball within which each offspring developed. We found evidence of differential allocation of investment by females in the brood balls they produced. However, experimental manipulations of maternal allocation to brood balls had only a weak and non-significant influence on the sire effects on offspring viability. Significant additive genetic effects on offspring viability were pervasive across our manipulations of the maternally provided larval environment. This finding indicates that although females do show differential allocation to offspring based on sire phenotype, ‘good genes’ benefits of mate choice are not dependent upon differential maternal allocation.


Offspring viability Additive genetic variance Differential allocation Dung beetles Onthophagus 



This research was funded by the Australian Research Council, and an International Postgraduate Research Scholarship to NLW. We thank Phil Baker, Peta Compton and Amanda Worth for technical assistance.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Evolutionary Biology, School of Animal Biology (M092)The University of Western AustraliaCrawleyAustralia

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