Late-life and intergenerational effects of larval exposure to microbial competitors in the burying beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides

A. H C McLean*, A. N. Arce, P. T. Smiseth, D. E. Rozen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Intergenerational effects can have either adaptive or nonadaptive impacts on offspring performance. Such effects are likely to be of ecological and evolutionary importance in animals with extended parental care, such as birds, mammals and some insects. Here, we studied the effects of exposure to microbial competition during early development on subsequent reproductive success in the burying beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides, an insect with elaborate parental care. We found that exposure to high levels of microbial competition both during a female's larval development and during her subsequent reproduction resulted in females rearing smaller broods than those exposed to lower levels of microbial competition. To determine whether these differences arose before or after offspring hatching, a cross-fostering experiment was conducted. Our results demonstrate that the impact of larval competition with microbes for resources extends into adult life and can negatively affect subsequent generations via impacts on the quality of parental care provided after hatching. However, we also find evidence for some positive effects of previous microbial exposure on prehatch investment, suggesting that the long-term results of competition with microbes may include altering the balance of parental investment between prehatch and post-hatch care.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1205-1216
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Evolutionary Biology
Volume27
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 3 May 2014

Keywords

  • microbial competition
  • nicrophorus vespilloides
  • parental care
  • parental effects
  • transgenerational effects

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