Title

Isotopic discrimination between carrion and elytra clippings of lab-reared American burying beetles (Nicrophorus americanus): Implications for conservation and evaluation of feeding relationships in the wild

Keywords

isotope consumption, animal, diet, carrion, carrion food web

Abstract

Rationale: Differences in stable isotope composition between an animal and its diet are quantified by experimentally derived diet-tissue discrimination factors. Appropriate discrimination factors between consumers and prey are essential for interpreting stable isotope patterns in ecological studies. While available for many taxa, these values are rarely estimated for organisms within the carrion food web.

Methods: We used a controlled-diet stable isotope feeding trial to quantify isotopic diet-tissue discrimination factors of carbon (δ13C values) and nitrogen (δ15N values) from laboratory-reared Nicrophorus americanus raised on carrion. We used exoskeleton samples of beetle elytra (wing covers) to determine diet-tissue discrimination factors using a continuous flow isotope ratio mass spectrometer equipped with an elemental analyzer. We also measured the isotopic compositions of five species of co-occurring, wild-caught burying beetles and evaluated feeding relationships.

Results: We found differences in stable carbon discrimination between carrion sources (mammalian and avian) and lab-reared beetles, but no difference in stable nitrogen discrimination. Values for δ13C did not differ among wild-caught burying beetle species, but values for δ15N were significantly different for the three species with overlapping breeding seasons. Furthermore, wild-caught burying beetles within our study area do not appear to use avian carrion resources to rear their young.

Conclusions: This study informs future interpretation of stable isotope data for insects within the carrion food web. In addition, these results provide insight into carrion resources used by co-occurring burying beetle species in situ. We also demonstrated that independent of adult food type, the larval food source has a significant impact on the isotopic signatures of adult beetles, which can be estimated using a minimally invasive elytra clipping.

Original Publication Citation

Quinby, BM, Feldman, NS, Flaherty, EA, Belk, MC, Smith, ADF, Creighton, JC. Isotopic discrimination between carrion and elytra clippings of lab‐reared American burying beetles (Nicrophorus americanus): Implications for conservation and evaluation of feeding relationships in the wild. Rapid Commun Mass Spectrom. 2020; 34:e8785.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date

2020-03-20

Publisher

Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry

Language

English

College

Life Sciences

Department

Biology

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor

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