Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Parental Bias for First-Born

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Parental Bias for First-Born

Article excerpt

Most parents would hotly deny favoring one child over another, but new research suggests they may have little choice in the matter.

Biologists studying a unique species of beetle that raises and cares for its young have found that parents instinctively favor the oldest offspring. The University of Manchester research supports the findings of studies carried out on human families, but is significant in that it suggests a wholly natural tendency toward older siblings.

"The burying beetle, Nicrophorus vespilloides, has a similar family structure to that of a human family unit in that there are two parents, a number of offspring, and interactions between parents and their young," says Per Smiseth, who led the research in the university's Faculty of Life Sciences. "Of course, human families are more complex and parent-child relationships are much more sophisticated. However, studying this beetle can help us understand the basic biological principles of how family relationships work. Our study looked at how the parent beetles mediate competition between different aged offspring compared to what happens when the young were left to fend for themselves and indicates that parental decisions are important in determining the outcome of competition between offspring. …

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