, Volume 31, Issue 2, pp 185-191,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Paternity assurance before and after fertilization by male burying beetles (Nicrophorus quadripunctatus)

Abstract

Parental care requires a large investment of time and energy. This can reduce future parental survival and opportunities for mating. Because males are usually more uncertain of their parentage with respect to the caring of offspring than are females, the reduction in reproductive success is thought to be greater in males. Therefore, males are under selection to ensure paternity of the offspring for which they care. Males can increase paternity before and after fertilization. Before fertilization, males can increase paternity by increasing their competitive ability for fertilization. After fertilization, males can increase paternity by cannibalizing unrelated offspring. Here, we investigated the stage at which male burying beetles, Nicrophorus quadripunctatus, increase their paternity by evaluating the number of offspring sired by a nursing male in asynchronously hatched broods in relation to hatching time. We found that nursing males assure a very high level of the paternity of hatching offspring. We also found that the paternity of non-nursing and nursing males remained constant across hatching time within a brood, indicating that it is unlikely that filial cannibalism plays a role in increasing the paternity of offspring. We concluded that ensuring paternity before fertilization is more important in increasing the paternity of offspring.