Adaptive switch from infanticide to parental care: how do beetles time their behaviour?

J. A. Oldekop, Per T. Smiseth, H. D. Piggins, A. J. Moore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

In species where parents may commit infanticide, temporal kin recognition can help ensure parents kill unrelated young but care for their own offspring. This is not true recognition, but rather depends on accurate timing of the arrival of young and a behavioural switch from killing to caring for offspring. Mistakes have clear fitness consequences; how do species that use temporal kin recognition ensure accurate timing? We manipulated photic cues and show that the switch from infanticide to parental care in the burying beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides depends on day-length inputs. Extending the light period after carcass discovery influenced timing of both oviposition and the cessation of infanticide. Manipulation of the light : dark cycle after oviposition also influenced timing of the switch to parental care. The timing mechanism is therefore sensitive to photic cues and access to a carcass and is not triggered by oviposition. The behavioural switch is directly related to the timing mechanism rather than changes in reproductive physiology. Given the conserved nature and extensive homology of genetic influences on biological timing, we speculate that the molecular mechanisms regulating circadian behaviour may have been co-opted to allow beetles to determine how much time has passed after carcass discovery even though this is over 50 h.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1998-2004
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Evolutionary Biology
Volume20
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2007

Keywords

  • biological timing
  • burying beetle
  • circadian clock
  • infanticide
  • Nicrophorus vespilloides
  • parental care
  • temporal kin recognition
  • timekeeping
  • PITCHER-PLANT MOSQUITO
  • FEMALE BURYING BEETLES
  • DROSOPHILA-MELANOGASTER
  • CIRCADIAN CLOCK
  • JUVENILE-HORMONE
  • NICROPHORUS-VESPILLOIDES
  • WYEOMYIA-SMITHII
  • MESSENGER-RNA
  • GENE
  • SILPHIDAE

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