Journal of Undergraduate Research


cost of reproduction, species of burying beetles, effects of age


Life Sciences




Understanding how much energy an organism allocates to breeding to maximize reproduction over their lifetime, or the cost of reproduction, is a central idea to understanding the variations in patterns of reproduction among living organisms (Creighton et al., 2009). In most studies of cost of reproduction, age is confounded with prior reproductive experience. As individuals age, they tend to reproduce making it difficult to disentangle these two factors when evaluating costs of reproduction. It is not clear whether reproduction early in life costs the same as reproduction later in life and how much of that difference might be due to prior reproduction or aging. Analyses of changes in reproductive effort are impeded by fundamental difficulties in measuring the cost of reproduction (Clutton-Brock, 1984). Unlike many other species, such as mammals and birds, burying beetles breed in discrete cycles in conditions easily replicated in a laboratory. Evaluation of brood size and the amount of mass gained by the parents gives us a very clear indication of how much energy a male and female burying beetle put into a reproductive bout. There are very few organisms that have breeding conditions and practices that allow for such clear measurement of the cost of reproduction as in burying beetles. These beetles provide the perfect experimental organism that will allow us to independently look at the effects of age and previous reproductive experience on the cost of reproduction. We will explore this question in both sexes of two different species to test for generality of patterns.

Included in

Biology Commons