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Data from: Fitness costs of phoretic nematodes in the burying beetle, Nicrophorus vespilloides

Cite this dataset

Wang, Yin; Rozen, Daniel E. (2018). Data from: Fitness costs of phoretic nematodes in the burying beetle, Nicrophorus vespilloides [Dataset]. Dryad.


1. Nicrophorus vespilloides is a social beetle that rears its offspring on decomposing carrion. Wild beetles are frequently associated with two types of macrobial symbionts, mites and nematodes. 2. Although these organisms are believed to be phoretic commensals that harmlessly use beetles as a means of transfer between carcasses, the role of these symbionts on N. vespilloides fitness is poorly understood. Here we show that nematodes have significant negative effects on beetle fitness across a range of worm densities and also quantify the density-dependent transmission of worms between mating individuals and from parents to offspring. 3. Using field-caught beetles, we provide the first report of a new nematode symbiont in N. vespilloides, most closely related to Rhabditoides regina, and show that worm densities are highly variable across individuals isolated from nature but do not differ between males and females. Next, by inoculating mating females with increasing densities of nematodes, we show that worm infections significantly reduce brood size, larval survival and larval mass, and also eliminate the trade-off between brood size and larval mass. Finally, we show that nematodes are efficiently transmitted between mating individuals and from mothers to larvae, directly and indirectly via the carcass, and that worms persist through pupation. 4. These results show that the phoretic nematode R. regina can be highly parasitic to burying beetles but can nevertheless persist because of efficient mechanisms of intersexual and intergenerational transmission. 5. Phoretic species are exceptionally common and may cause significant harm to their hosts, even though they rely on these larger species for transmission to new resources. However, this harm may be inevitable and unavoidable if transmission of phoretic symbionts requires nematode proliferation. It will be important to determine the generality of our results for other phoretic associates of animals.

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