Sexual buzzkill allows parents to focus on needs of their larvae
For burying beetles, parenting is a real turnoff.
While caring for her newborn larvae, a mother burying beetle (Nicrophorus vespilloides) releases a chemical compound that limits her mate’s urge to breed. The antiaphrodisiac cue lets beetle dads focus on childcare before mating again, researchers report March 22 in Nature Communications.
“We were surprised to discover such a chemical communication system that helps to resolve — at least in part — conflicts between both parents,” says study coauthor Sandra Steiger, a behavioral ecologist at University of Ulm in Germany. “Communication plays a key role in effective parental care.”
Burying beetles lay their eggs on small dead animals. For about three days after hatching, larvae beg their parents for predigested food (nibbled from the carcass). Previous studies showed that beetle