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Introduction

The Silphidae are among the largest and most conspicuous of the staphylinoid beetles. Most species are carrion-associated and will breed at carrion on which the larvae will feed. Adults of some (most?) species will opportunistically prey on fly larvae, and various species have been found at both dung and certain fungi.

There are two distinct lineages or clades of silphids currently ranked as subfamilies. The Silphinae typically breed at large carcasses and show little to no parental care whereas the Nicrophorinae, in particular the genus Nicrophorus, show the opposite pattern. They breed at small carcasses (<300g, usually <50g) which a pair of parents will bury into a subterranean crypt in which to rear their brood. Members of the genus Nicrophorus are unusual among the Coleoptera in showing biparental care of their offspring. Some species have been found to breed communally on carcasses too large to bury.

There is a relatively extensive literature on silphid biology, although primarily focused on the more behaviorally complex species of the Nicrophorinae, much of which has been reviewed by Anderson and Peck (1985), Ratcliffe (1996), Eggert and Müller (1997) and Scott (1998). Heymons published a series of classic works describing the biology of various European silphine species (Heymons et al. 1926, 1927, 1928, 1929, 1930a, 1930b; Heymons & Lengerken 1931, 1932a, 1933b, 1934). The life history of Necrodes surinamensis was described by Ratcliffe (1972) but few other silphine species have been studied in detail. See Sikes (in press) for more detailed information on silphid biology, morphology, and phylogeny.

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