Offspring begging can be triggered by a variety of acoustic, visual or chemical cues from the parents. In many birds, nestlings use information derived from these cues to discriminate between individual parents or different classes of adults. Although begging occurs in some insects, we know very little about discrimination between adults by insect larvae. Here, we examine whether begging larvae in the burying beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides can discriminate between individual parents or different classes of adults. We found that larvae showed no discrimination between male and female beetles, but that they begged more towards breeding beetles than towards non-breeding ones. These results were robust regardless of whether larvae had been reared in presence or absence of adult beetles, thus suggesting that larval discrimination is based on an innate template that requires no prior exposure to adult beetles. We also found that larvae begged more towards unfamiliar beetles than towards familiar ones, suggesting that they can learn to discriminate between individual parents based on cues about familiarity. We conclude that insect larvae may benefit from discriminating between different classes of adult beetles, as it allows them to lower the costs associated with begging in response to irrelevant environmental cues (costly in terms of wasted effort) and with not begging in response to the presence of caring parents (costly in terms of lost feeding opportunities).
- Breeding status
- Nicrophorus vespilloides