Campus Units

Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology

Document Type


Publication Version

Accepted Manuscript

Publication Date


Journal or Book Title

Animal Behaviour



First Page


Last Page





Parents increase their fitness by investing resources to offspring. However, such investment is costly for parents, leading to tradeoffs, which should shift towards heavier investment to reproduction as females age and future reproductive opportunities decrease. Nests of aquatic turtles laid farther from water have higher survival than those laid closer to shore because nest predators often forage along environmental edges. However, the predation risk of adult females increases farther from water because water is used as refuge from terrestrial predators. Thus, females may balance investment in current offspring vs. maternal survival and future offspring. To test if investment varies depending upon perceived risk, we exposed 30 painted turtles (Chrysemys picta) to simulated predation by capturing and handling them shortly after females chose a nest site. We then released females, which fled to water, and allowed them to return to land and nest undisturbed. We compared the distance to water of nests laid before and after simulated predation. Unexpectedly, females did not vary distance to water in response to simulated predation. Regardless, nest sites chosen after simulated predation were more likely to be depredated than those chosen before simulated predation, suggesting females altered nest-site choice in ways we did not quantify. In addition, although older turtles nested almost twice as far from water as younger turtles, we found no evidence that age influenced maternal response to simulated predation. Our findings suggest perceived risk of mothers to predation influences nest-site choice and subsequently reduces offspring survival in C. picta. In addition, we provide a rare assessment of how plastic maternal investment might vary across reproductive life.


This is a manuscript of an article published as Delaney, David M., and Fredric J. Janzen. "Risk-sensitive maternal investment: an evaluation of parent–offspring conflict over nest site choice in the wild." Animal Behaviour 163 (2020): 105-113. doi: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2020.03.004.

Copyright Owner

The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour



File Format


Available for download on Sunday, May 01, 2022

Published Version