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Experimental evolution of a more restrained clutch size when filial cannibalism is prevented in burying beetles Nicrophorus vespilloides

Citation

Rebar, Darren; Halliwell, Chay; Kemp, Rachel; Kilner, Rebecca (2022), Experimental evolution of a more restrained clutch size when filial cannibalism is prevented in burying beetles Nicrophorus vespilloides, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.v15dv41z0

Abstract

The over-production of offspring is commonly associated with high hatching failure and a mechanism for dispensing with surplus young. We used experimental evolution of burying beetle populations Nicrophorus vespilloides to determine causality in these correlations. We asked: does eliminating the mechanism for killing ‘spare’ offspring cause the evolution of a more restrained clutch size, and consequently select for reduced hatching failure? N. vespilloides typically over-produces eggs but kills 1st instar larvae through partial filial cannibalism during brood care. We established replicate evolving populations that either could practice filial cannibalism (Full Care) or could not, by removing parents before their young hatched (No Care). After 20+ generations of experimental evolution, we measured clutch size and hatching success. We found that No Care females produced fewer eggs than Full Care females when allowed to breed on a small corpse, a finding not explained by differences in female quality. On larger corpses, females from both populations laid similar numbers of eggs. Furthermore, hatching success was greater in the No Care populations on small corpses. Our results suggest that the adaptive over-production of offspring depends on a mechanism for eliminating surplus young and that killing offspring, in turn, relaxes selection against hatching failure.

Methods

Data were collected from experimentally evolving populations of Nicrophorus vespilloides. Please see "Experimental evolution of a more restrained clutch size when filial cannibalism is prevented in burying beetles Nicrophorus vespilloides" for complete details.

Funding

European Research Council, Award: 310785