Nicrophorus beetles are host to several mite species but are commonly most obviously infested Poecilochirus mites. Like the burying beetle, these mites depend on carrion to breed but lack the capability of locating a carcass themselves. So they use the beetle as a mode of transport between breeding opportunities: they don’t feed on the beetle itself, and are consequently ‘phoretic’. Once the beetle has found a carcass, the mites hop off and breed alongside the beetle. Their generation time matches the duration of parental care, and the new generation of mites hops on to the adults as they finish breeding and fly off in search of the newly dead.
We are interested to know
• whether the mites are competitors on the carcass or whether they are somehow beneficial to the burying beetle
• how the extent of mite infestation affects social interactions within the family
This research is being carried out by Ana Duarte and Syuan-Jyun Sun
Ana Duarte, Sheena C. Cotter, Ornela De Gasperin, Thomas M. Houslay, Giuseppe Boncoraglio, Martin Welch & Rebecca M. Kilner. No evidence of a cleaning mutualism between burying beetles and their phoretic mites. Scientific reports. doi: doi:10.1038/s41598-017-14201-6
Ornela De Gasperin, Rebecca M Kilner. Interspecific Interactions and the Scope for Parent-Offspring Conflict: High Mite Density Temporarily Changes the Trade-Off between Offspring Size and Number in the Burying Beetle, Nicrophorus vespilloides. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0150969
De Gasperin, O. & Kilner, R. M. 2015. Interspecific interactions change the outcome of sexual conflict over pre-hatching parental investment in the burying beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides. Ecology and Evolution in press.
De Gasperin, O. & Kilner, R. M. 2015. Friend or foe: interspecific interactions and conflicts of interest within the family. Ecological Entomology doi: 10.1111/een.12259
De Gasperin, O., Duarte, A. L. & Kilner, R. M. 2015. Interspecific interactions explain variation in the duration of paternal care in the burying beetle. Animal Behaviour 109:199-207. doi:10.1016/j.anbehav.2015.08.014