After a female burying beetle, Nicrophorus vespilloides, eggs hatch, the beetle will go through a temporary period of infertility. When she does she will also release a hormone that works as an anti-aphrodisiac, that is targeted at her partner.
This is to allow both beetles to take care of the new offspring, rather then attempting to create more leaving the newly emerged young neglected. These findings were published in Nature Communications last week. Being a parent can require a large amount of time, resources and energy, along with the age old dilemma of taking care of the current offspring or investing in producing additional ones. By preventing mating in the female and in turn the male from attempting to mate during the females infertility period it saves the beetles from this dilemma (not to mention the trauma that occurs with some beetle mating, think piercing the exoskeleton.)
Burying beetles reproduce on small dead vertebrates, this will allow them to feed their developing offspring the pre-digested carcasses. Adorably like young birds, burying beetle young ‘beg’ for food too; They rear up & wave their legs touching their parents mouth parts signaling the want for food. Unlike birds though, they only do this for about 3 days, after that they can start to feed on the carrion themselves, but until then, its Mum and Dad’s job to feed the young.
With this biparental care, the larvae will have a the best possible chance starting out in life, by allowing them to grow bigger by the time they disperse. Size in the burying beetle world means a lot due to the larger beetles finding it easier to secure a carcass.
So to help aid their offspring’s chance the female burying beetle suppresses its eff-laying ability and communicates that to her partner with the hormone called juvenile hormone 3, this is not displayed if the offspring are removed or the offspring have become nutritionally independent and are feeding themselves.
This communication between the parents have allowed the offspring to have the best start to life and prevent the adults from wasting energy mating and raising offspring that would not be able to make it. All in all, the an amazing example of how to communicate to save energy.
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