Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 21, Issue 3, pp 179–183

Filial cannibalism in burying beetles

  • J. Bartlett

DOI: 10.1007/BF00303208

Cite this article as:
Bartlett, J. Behav Ecol Sociobiol (1987) 21: 179. doi:10.1007/BF00303208


Infanticide is a common phenomenon in many animal groups, but filial cannibalism, the deliberate killing and consumption by parents of their own young, is extremely unusual. The burying beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides Herbst has a limited food supply, in the form of a buried corpse, on which to raise its young. On corpses weighing 10–15 g, clutch size in the lab is such that complete hatching can support without severe reduction in the individual weights of final instars. The parents reduce the brood by killing and eating almost half of the first stage larvae. It is suggested that, in the field, predation of eggs and newly hatched larvae may be heavy, and that the excess eggs are laid as an insurance. If survival is then unusually high, superfluous young are killed by the parents before competition for food can occur.

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Bartlett
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyUniversity of EdinburghEdinburghGreat Britain