Sibling competition does not exacerbate inbreeding depression in the burying beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides

Natalia Pilakouta, Daniel Sieber, Per T. Smiseth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Inbreeding results from matings between relatives and can cause a reduction in offspring fitness, known as inbreeding depression. Previous work has shown that a wide range of environmental stresses, such as extreme temperatures, starvation, and parasitism, can exacerbate inbreeding depression. It has recently been argued that stresses due to intraspecific competition should have a stronger effect on the severity of inbreeding depression than stresses due to harsh physical conditions. Here, we tested whether an increase in the intensity of sibling competition can exacerbate inbreeding depression in the burying beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides. We used a 2×3 factorial design with offspring inbreeding status (outbred or inbred) and brood size (5, 20, or 40 larvae) as the two factors. We found a main effect of inbreeding status, as inbred larvae had lower survival than outbred larvae, and a main effect of brood size, as larvae in large broods had lower survival and mass than larvae in medium-sized broods. However, there was no effect of the interaction between inbreeding status and brood size, suggesting that sibling competition did not influence the severity of inbreeding depression. Since we focused on sibling competition within homogeneous broods of either inbred or outbred larvae, we cannot rule out possible effects of sibling competition on inbreeding depression in mixed paternity broods comprising of both inbred and outbred offspring. More information on whether and when sibling competition might influence the expression of inbreeding depression can help advance our understanding of the causes underlying variation in the severity of inbreeding depression.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)704–710
JournalJournal of Evolutionary Biology
Issue number4
Early online date16 Jan 2016
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2016

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • burying beetle
  • environmental stress
  • fitness
  • inbreeding depression
  • Nicophorus vespilloides
  • sibling competition


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