Burying Beetle Battles

 Burying Beetle

Burying Beetle

The burying beetle, Necrophorus vespilloides, buries small dead animals and uses the caracass as food for the brood. A caracass is a scarce resource and beetles fight over it. The winning female and winning male will bury the carcass. In fights between females, the loser does not always leave to search for another carcass. The loser, especially smaller female, may hang around the carcass and deposit some of her own eggs, despite the risk of another fight. Once larvae hatch, the female loser leaves and the winner is stays to care for the brood.

Young burying beetle larvae may not possess muscles powerful enough to chew the food, so mother chews the food and feeds it to the brood. She may care for some larvae who are not her own. In studies of contested carcasses, German scientists* found that the vast majority of the offspring belong to the female winner and very few belong to the loser. The loser is often small and unlikely to win a battle. Her alternatives may be producing a few offspring on the carass won by another female or none. The optimal reproductive strategy is to slip eggs into the brood of another female.

*JOSEF K. MULLER, ANNE-KATRIN EGGERT & JURGEN DRESSEL. 1990. Intraspecific brood parasitism in the burying beetle, Necrophorus vespilloides. Anita. Behav. 40: 491-499.
DOI: 10.1016/S0003-3472(05)80529-9

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
This entry was posted in behavior, by jjneal, Environment. Bookmark the permalink.

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