Temperature regulation in burying beetles (Nicrophorus spp. Coleoptera: Silphidae): Effects of body size, morphology and environmental temperature

Melissa J. Merrick, Rosemary J. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

23 Scopus citations

Abstract

This study compares the thermoregulatory ability of three species of burying beetle (Coleoptera: Silphidae: Nicrophorus hybridus, Nicrophorus guttula and Nicrophorus investigator) that vary significantly in body size. It also explores possible mechanisms for temperature regulation in burying beetles, including physiological and behavioral thermoregulatory strategies, and the influence of environmental temperatures on body temperature and activity times. We measured beetle thoracic and abdominal temperatures before and after short (<5 s) flights, and thoracic temperature during sustained, tethered flights and following flight in the field. We calculated two measures of thermoregulatory ability: the slope of post-flight thoracic temperature against ambient air temperature and the slope of post-flight thoracic temperature against operative flight temperature. Thoracic temperatures following flight were significantly higher than abdominal temperatures, and the largest species, N. hybridus, was determined to be the better thermoregulator, with regression slopes closer to zero (0.315-0.370) than N. guttula (0.636-0.771) or N. investigator (0.575-0.610). We also examined the roles that insulation, wing loading, physiological heat transfer, basking and perceived environmental temperature play on temperature regulation and activity times in Nicrophorus. This study shows that body size, morphological features, such as wing loading and insulation, and perceived environmental temperatures affect thermoregulation and activity times in burying beetles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)723-733
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Volume207
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 1 2004
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Body size
  • Body temperature
  • Burying beetle
  • Coleoptera
  • Flight temperature
  • Nicrophorus spp.
  • Operative temperature
  • Thermoregulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science

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