Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2004

Publication Title

The American Naturalist

Volume

163

Issue

5

First Page

635

Last Page

653

DOI

10.1086/382734

Abstract

Abstract: We propose and evaluate the hypothesis that parent‐offspring conflict over the degree of maternal investment has been one of the main selective factors in the evolution of vertebrate reproductive mode. This hypothesis is supported by data showing that the assumptions of parent‐offspring conflict theory are met for relevant taxa; the high number of independent origins of viviparity, matrotrophy (direct maternal‐fetal nutrient transfer), and hemochorial placentation (direct fetal access to the maternal bloodstream); the extreme diversity in physiological and morphological aspects of viviparity and placentation, which usually cannot be ascribed adaptive significance in terms of ecological factors; and divergent and convergent patterns in the diversification of placental structure, function, and developmental genetics. This hypothesis is also supported by data demonstrating that embryos and fetuses actively manipulate their interaction with the mother, thereby garnishing increased maternal resources. Our results indicate that selection may favor adaptations of the mother, the fetus, or both in traits related to reproductive mode and that integration of physiological and morphological data with evolutionary ecological data will be required to understand the adaptive significance of interspecific variation in viviparity, matrotrophy, and placentation.

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