Interspecific competition effects on survival of American burying beetle (Nicrophorus americanus Olivier) in eastern Oklahoma

Monday, November 17, 2014: 11:12 AM
Portland Ballroom 254 (Oregon Convention Center)
Thomas Ferrari , Entomology and Plant Pathology, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK
American Burying Beetle (ABB) (Nicrophorus americanus) populations have been in decline since the early 1900’s, and much effort has been put into studying the survival of this now endangered species. Burying beetles (Silphidae), which rely solely on carrion as both a reproductive and food resource, exclude most other competitors by burying small mammal and other vertebrate carcasses underground. Fertilized females may reproduce alone or in groups, but a carcass is usually buried by a male and female pair.

Small carrion is a short-lived, high-quality resource to many specialized insects. The competition for this valuable resource is strong and has probably shaped many ecological, behavioral, and physiological traits of the associated insects. Not only do the burying beetles compete with insects, they must also compete with vertebrate scavengers.

In southeastern Oklahoma, the ABB compete directly or indirectly with many other insect species.  After two years of sampling in this region, the  four most abundant other insect species trapped in conjunction with the ABB were the red-lined carrion beetle Necrodes surinamensis, the congener Nicrophorus orbicollis, the ridged carrion beetle Oiceoptoma inaequale, and the beetle Euspilotus assimilis from the Family Histeridae.

We completed 2400 trap-nights using 170 above-ground pitfall traps that were placed in seven separate areas within Pittsburg and Hughes counties in southeastern Oklahoma. Preliminary results based on flight times and capture data indicate that the strongest competitor for reproductive resources is the congener N. orbicollis.