burying beetle, reproductive cost, reproductive strategy, reproductive success


Organisms are selected to maximize lifetime reproductive success by balancing the costs of current reproduction with costs to future survival and fecundity. Males and females typically face different reproductive costs, which makes comparisons of their reproductive strategies difficult. Burying beetles provide a unique system that allows us to compare the costs of reproduction between the sexes because males and females are capable of raising offspring together or alone and carcass preparation and offspring care represent the majority of reproductive costs for both sexes. Because both sexes perform the same functions of carcass preparation and offspring care, we predict that they would experience similar costs and have similar life history patterns. In this study we assess the cost of reproduction in male Nicrophorus orbicollis and compare to patterns observed in females. We compare the reproductive strategies of single males and females that provided pre- and post-hatching parental care. There is a cost to reproduction for both males and females, but the sexes respond to these costs differently. Females match brood size with carcass size, and thus maximize the lifetime number of offspring on a given size carcass. Males cull proportionately more offspring on all carcass sizes, and thus have a lower lifetime number of offspring compared to females. Females exhibit an adaptive reproductive strategy based on resource availability, but male reproductive strategies are not adaptive in relation to resource availability.

Original Publication Citation

Smith, A.N., J.C. Creighton, and M.C. Belk. 2015. Differences in patterns of reproductive allocation between the sexes in Nicrophorus orbicollis. Plos One 10:1-16.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date







Life Sciences



University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor

Included in

Biology Commons