Skip to main content

Female-coerced monogamy in burying beetles

Abstract

The reproductive interests of the sexes often do not coincide, and this fundamental conflict is believed to underlie a variety of sex-specific behavioral adaptations. Sexual conflict in burying beetles arises when a male and female secure a carcass that can support more offspring than a single female can produce. In such a situation, any male attracting a second female sires more surviving offspring than he would by remaining monogamous, whereas the female's reproductive success decreases if a rival female is attracted to the carcass. Monogamously paired males on large carcasses do in fact attempt to attract additional females by means of pheromone emission, whereas males on small carcasses do not. Females physically interfere with male polygynous signaling using various behavioral tactics. We demonstrate that such interference leads to a significant decrease in the amount of time that males spend signaling, according females a means by which to impose monogamy on their mates.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  • Bartlett J (1987) Filial cannibalism in burying beetles. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 21:179–183

    Google Scholar 

  • Bartlett J (1988) Male mating success and paternal care in Nicrophorus vespilloides (Coleoptera: Silphidae). Behav Ecol Sociobiol 23:297–303

    Google Scholar 

  • Bartlett J, Ashworth CM (1988) Brood size and fitness in Nicrophorus vespilloides (Coleoptera: Silphidae). Behav Ecol Sociobiol 22:429–434

    Google Scholar 

  • Davies NB (1992) Dunnock behaviour and social evolution. Oxford University Press, Oxford

    Google Scholar 

  • Eggert A-K (1992) Alternative male mate-finding tactics in burying beetles. Behav Ecol 3:243–254

    Google Scholar 

  • Eggert A-K, Muffler JK (1989) Pheromone-mediated attraction in burying beetles. Ecol Entomol 14:235–237

    Google Scholar 

  • Eggert A-K, Müller JK (1992) Joint breeding in female burying beetles. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 31:237–242

    Google Scholar 

  • Egbert A-K, Müller JK (in press) Biparental care and social evolution in burying beetles: lessons from the larder. In: Choe JC, Crespi BJ (eds) Social competition and cooperation in insects and arachnids, vol II. Evolution of sociality. Princeton University Press, Princeton

  • Fabre JH (1899) Souvenirs entomologiques. Paris

  • Müller JK (1984) Die Bedeutung der Fallenfang-Methode für die Lösung ökologischer Fragestellungen. Zool Jb Syst 111:281–305

    Google Scholar 

  • Müller JK, Eggert A-K (1987) Effects of carrion-independent pheromone emission by male burying beetles (Silphidae: Necrophorus). Ethology 76:297–304

    Google Scholar 

  • Müller JK, Eggert A-K (1989) Paternity assurance by “helpful” males: adaptations to sperm competition in burying beetles. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 24:245–249

    Google Scholar 

  • Müller JK, Eggert AK, Dressel J (1990) Intraspecific brood parasitism in the burying beetle, Necrophorus vespilloides (Coleoptera: Silphidae). Anim Behav 40:491–499

    Google Scholar 

  • Orians GH (1969) On the evolution of mating systems in birds and mammals. Am Nat 103:589–603

    Google Scholar 

  • Otronen M (1988) The effect of body size on the outcome of fights in burying beetles (Nicrophorus). Ann Zool Fenn 25:191–201

    Google Scholar 

  • Parker GA (1979) Sexual selection and sexual conflict. In: Blum MS, Blum NA (eds) Sexual selection and reproductive competition in insects. Academic Press, New York, pp 123–166

    Google Scholar 

  • Peck SB, Anderson RS (1985) Taxonomy, phylogeny and biogeography of the carrion beetles of Latin America (Coleoptera: Silphidae). Quaest Entomol 21:247–317

    Google Scholar 

  • Pukowski E (1933) Ökologische Untersuchungen an Necrophorus F. Z Morphol Ökol Tiere 27:518–586

    Google Scholar 

  • Reinking M, Müller JK (1990) The benefit of parental care in the burying beetle, Necrophorus vespilloides. Verh Dtsch Zool Ges 83:655–656

    Google Scholar 

  • Scott MP (1990) Brood guarding and the evolution of male parental care in burying beetles. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 26:31–39

    Google Scholar 

  • Scott MP, Williams SM (1993) Comparative reproductive success of communally breeding burying beetles as assessed by PCR with randomly amplified polymorphic DNA. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 90:2242–2245

    Google Scholar 

  • Thornhill R, Alcock J (1983) The evolution of insect mating systems. Harvard University Press, Cambridge

    Google Scholar 

  • Trivers RL (1972) Parental investment and sexual selection. In: Campbell B (ed) Sexual selection and the descent of man, 1871–1971. Aldine, Chicago, pp 136–179

    Google Scholar 

  • Trumbo ST (1990a) Reproductive benefits of infanticide in a biparental burying beetle Nicrophorus orbicollis. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 27:269–273

    Google Scholar 

  • Trumbo ST (1990b) Interference competition among burying beetles. Ecol Entomol 15:347–355

    Google Scholar 

  • Trumbo ST (1991) Reproductive benefits and the duration of paternal care in a biparental burying beetle, Necrophorus orbicollis. Behaviour 117:82–105

    Google Scholar 

  • Trumbo ST (1992) Monogamy to communal breeding: exploitation of a broad resource base by burying beetles (Nicrophorus). Ecol Entomol 17:289–298

    Google Scholar 

  • Trumbo ST, Eggert A-K (1994) Beyond monogamy: territory quality influences sexual advertisement in male burying beetles. Anim Behav 48:1043–1047

    Google Scholar 

  • Trumbo ST, Fiore AJ (1994) Interspecific competition and the evolution of communal breeding in burying beetles. Am Midl Nat 131:169–174

    Google Scholar 

  • Trumbo ST, Wilson DS (1993) Brood discrimination, nest mate discrimination, and determinants of social behavior in facultatively quasisocial beetles (Nicrophorus spp.). Behav Ecol 4:332–339

    Google Scholar 

  • Verner J, Willson MF (1966) The influence of habitats on mating systems of North American passerine birds. Ecology 47:143–147

    Google Scholar 

  • Watson PJ (1986) Transmission of a female sex pheromone thwarted by males in the spider Linyphia litigiosa (Linyphiidae). Science 233:219–221

    Google Scholar 

  • West-Eberhard MJ, Bradbury JW, Davies NB, Gouyon P-H, Hammerstein P, König B, Parker GA, Queller DC, Sachser N, Slagsvold T, Trillmich F, Vogel C (1987) Conflicts between and within the sexes in sexual selection—group report. In: Bradbury JW, Anderson MB (eds) Sexual selection: testing the alternatives. Wiley, Chichester, pp 180–195

    Google Scholar 

  • Wilson DS, Knollenberg WG, Fudge J (1984) Species packing and temperature dependent competition among burying beetles (Silphidae, Nicrophorus). Ecol Entomol 9:205–216

    Google Scholar 

  • Zeh DW, Smith RL (1985) Paternal investment in terrestrial arthropods. Am Zool 25:785–805

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Additional information

Communicated by D.T. Gwynne

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Eggert, AK., Sakaluk, S.K. Female-coerced monogamy in burying beetles. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 37, 147–153 (1995). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00176711

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00176711

Key words

  • Sexual conflict
  • Burying beetles
  • Nicrophorus defodiens
  • Monogamy
  • Pheromones