Cost of Reproduction, Resource Quality, and Terminal Investment in a Burying Beetle


cost of reproduction, senescence, terminal investment, trade-off, burying beetle, life history


We evaluate the cost‐of‐reproduction hypothesis in the burying beetle Nicrophorus orbicollis and examine how the importance of this trade‐off changes as females age (i.e., the terminal‐investment hypothesis). These beetles breed on small vertebrate carcasses, which serve as a food resource for them and their offspring. Consistent with the cost‐of‐reproduction hypothesis, females manipulated to overproduce offspring suffered a reduction in fecundity and life span when compared to controls, although all reproducing females had reduced life spans compared to nonbreeding females. Older females produced larger broods and allocated less of the carcass to their own body mass and a greater proportion to offspring than did younger females. Resource allocation to offspring increased with age. Females given larger carcasses invested more in current reproduction and less in future reproduction than did females given smaller carcasses. Our results provide unconfounded support for both the cost‐of‐reproduction hypothesis (i.e., current reproduction constrains future reproductive output) and the terminal‐investment hypothesis (i.e., the importance of the trade‐off between current and future reproduction declines with age such that allocation to current reproduction should increase as females age).

Original Publication Citation

Creighton, J.C., N.D. Heflin, and M.C. Belk. 2009. Cost of reproduction, resource quality, and terminal invetsment in a burying beetle. American Naturalist 174:673-684.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



The American Naturalist




Life Sciences



University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor