The evolution of parental care diversity in amphibians

Andrew I. Furness*, Isabella Capellini

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)
110 Downloads (Pure)


Parental care is extremely diverse across species, ranging from simple behaviours to complex adaptations, varying in duration and in which sex cares. Surprisingly, we know little about how such diversity has evolved. Here, using phylogenetic comparative methods and data for over 1300 amphibian species, we show that egg attendance, arguably one of the simplest care behaviours, is gained and lost faster than any other care form, while complex adaptations, like brooding and viviparity, are lost at very low rates, if at all. Prolonged care from the egg to later developmental stages evolves from temporally limited care, but it is as easily lost as it is gained. Finally, biparental care is evolutionarily unstable regardless of whether the parents perform complementary or similar care duties. By considering the full spectrum of parental care adaptations, our study reveals a more complex and nuanced picture of how care evolves, is maintained, or is lost.
Original languageEnglish
Article number4709
Number of pages12
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 17 Oct 2019


  • life history theory
  • Amphibians
  • Parental care
  • Phylogenetic comparative analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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