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Infanticidal Behavior in the Subsocial Beetle Odontotaenius disjunctus (Illiger) (Coleoptera: Passalidae)


Infanticide, the killing of young, reproductively immature individuals of the perpetrator’s same species, has many interesting implications for reproductive fitness. Here we provide the first experimental description of infanticidal behavior in the passalid beetle Odontotaenius disjunctus (Illiger). To test our hypothesis that infanticide is triggered by the takeover of burrows by adults that had yet to reproduce in the mating season, we measured the mortality of larvae when housed with adults that were reproducing or had not yet reproduced. A significantly higher mortality was observed in larvae housed with adults that had not reproduced than when housed with their own parent or with unrelated reproducing adults. Infanticidal behavior of O. disjunctus is thought to result from the reproductive advantage obtained by taking over an existing burrow and thereby securing one with high food resource quality.

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The authors would like to thank Dr. Stewart Ware, plant community ecologist at the College of William and Mary, for discussions concerning the College Woods, and Dr. Gisela Fashing for her critical review of the manuscript. A.J.K. was supported in this work by a grant from the William and Mary Howard Hughes Medical Institute Program.

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Correspondence to Andrew King.

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King, A., Fashing, N. Infanticidal Behavior in the Subsocial Beetle Odontotaenius disjunctus (Illiger) (Coleoptera: Passalidae). J Insect Behav 20, 527–536 (2007).

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  • Infanticide
  • Odontotaenius
  • Passalidae
  • Coleoptera
  • take-over