Preserving Dead Animals

Burying Beetle

Burying Beetle

Burying beetles will bury dead animals and rear their offspring on the carcass. Dead animals, buried or above ground are food for microbes that can produce toxins harmful to the beetles. How does a burying beetle protect its food supply?

Burying beetles coat the dead animal with protein-containing secretions from their digestive system that prevent microbial growth. A study* of genes in the burying beetle, Nicrophorus vespilloides, show found that the expression of a gene encoding a lysozyme increases over 1000-fold as the female begins to produce her secretion. Lysozymes are a family of enzymes that degrade polysaccharides. Lysozymes kill bacteria by degrading their cell walls and are present as an antimicrobial defense in many insects. Using lysozyme to coat the outside of a dead animal would be an effective preservative.

*William J. Palmer, Ana Duarte, Matthew Schrader, Jonathan P Day, Rebecca Kilner & Francis M. Jiggins. A gene for social immunity in the burying beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides?
http://biorxiv.org/content/early/2015/06/08/020644

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 Biomaterials, by jjneal, Environment. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Preserving Dead Animals

  1. Pingback: Preserving Dead Animals | Living With Insects Blog

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