Resource availability and population dynamics of Nicrophorus investigator, an obligate carrion breeder

Rosemary J. Smith, Melissa J. Merrick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


1. Food resources for rearing young may influence insect populations. This is particularly true for insects that breed obligately on rare, ephemeral resources such as dung, fungi, or carrion. 2. Beetles in the genus Nicrophorus bury small vertebrate carcasses for rearing their young. Studies reviewed by Scott (1998) have found a positive relationship between carcass mass and total brood size. It is likely that access to carcasses suitable for breeding, and not food or mates, limits reproduction in both male and female Nicrophorus. Thus, small mammal densities could determine Nicrophorus population sizes. 3. The work reported here examined the relationship between Nicrophorus investigator (Coleoptera: Silphidae) population size and small mammal abundance at two sites over a 4-year period. 4. Nicrophorus investigator buried and reared young on all the native small rodent species trapped at two sites in south-western Colorado, U.S.A. (Peromyscus maniculatus, Microtus montanus, Zapus princeps, Tamias minimus, Thomomys talpoides). They preferred to bury and reproduce on rodent carcasses weighing between 16 and 48 g; rodents of this size represented 82% of captures. 5. Population sizes of N. investigator and small rodents were estimated simultaneously using mark-recapture censuses over a 4-year period. Considering only rodents within the size range used by N. investigator, the estimated small mammal biomass per hectare in one year and the beetle population size in the following year were correlated significantly.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)173-180
Number of pages8
JournalEcological Entomology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2001


  • Nicrophorus
  • Population dynamics
  • Reproductive ecology
  • Resource availability
  • Small mammal abundance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Insect Science


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