The study of the evolution of parental care is central to our understanding of social systems, sexual selection, and interindividual conflict, yet we know virtually nothing about the genetic architecture of parental care traits in natural populations. In this paper, we use data from a long term field study of a passerine bird, the long-tailed tit (Aegithalos caudatus), to examine the heritability of the rate at which parents feed offspring. This measure of effort is positively related to offspring survival, is repeatable within individuals, and does not appear to be confounded by environmental effects. Using both parent-offspring regression, and an animal model approach, with a pedigree derived from ringing data, we show that our measure of effort has a significant heritable component.
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Vol. 57 • No. 9