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Reproduction

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Male and female American burying beetles have highly sensitive organs on their antennas that can detect the smell of decaying flesh up to 3.2 km away. They meet at a carcass of of suitable size, generally 50 to 200 g. If a male arrives at a carcass first, he waits for a female. If no female arrives after a period of time, the male sits on top of the carcass in a particular posture and broadcasts pheromones to attract a female. Once a male and female are present at a carcass, they cooperate to move it to suitable substrate and bury it under several inches of soil, chewing through roots as necessary. Once buried, hair or feathers are removed from the carcass, and the two beetles mate. The female creates a chamber above the carcass, in which she lays approximately 30 eggs.

Mating System: monogamous

American burying beetles require a vertebrate carcass of sufficient size in order to successfully breed (between 50 and 200 g). Females breed once a year in June or July and lay their eggs in a chamber above the carcass. If the carcass is too small, it cannot provide sufficient food for all the larvae, and parents may eat some of their young. Larvae pupate and emerge as adults 48 to 68 days after hatching. New adults spend winter in the soil and breed the following summer.

Breeding interval: American burying beetles breed once yearly.

Breeding season: American burying beetles breed in June or July.

Range eggs per season: 30 (high) .

Average eggs per season: 23.

Range time to independence: 48 (high) days.

Average time to independence: 68 days.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 48 to 68 days.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 48 to 68 days.

Key Reproductive Features: semelparous ; seasonal breeding ; sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); oviparous

American burying beetles provide care for their young from the time of birth until adolescence. This type of behavior is typically not observed among invertebrates outside of social bees, wasps, and termites.

Prior to birth, both parents regurgitate partially digested food in the nesting chamber, which accumulates as food for the larvae. They continue to do so until larvae are able to feed directly from the carcass. Parents also regularly maintain the carcass by removing fungi and covering the carrion ball with antibacterial secretions.

Parental Investment: male parental care ; female parental care ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female)

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Khetani, S. and T. Parker 2011. "Nicrophorus americanus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Nicrophorus_americanus.html
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Behavior

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Adult American burying beetles can detect dead or decaying flesh up to 3.2 km away using chemical receptors on their antennae. Both males and females are attracted to carcasses, and there is often competition between members of each sex at a carcass until a single pair remains. When necessary, males use pheromones to attract females to a carcass. Males and females cooperatively move and bury a carcass, though how they communicate to do so is unknown.

Communication Channels: chemical

Other Communication Modes: pheromones

Perception Channels: visual ; chemical

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Khetani, S. and T. Parker 2011. "Nicrophorus americanus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Nicrophorus_americanus.html
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Conservation Status

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American burying beetles were listed as an endangered species by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1989. They are currently considered critically endangered by the IUCN and are likely extirpated from Michigan. Habitat fragmentation and habitat loss are largely held responsible for the decline of this species. Habitat fragmentation and deforestation has reduced populations of species that become carrion in which this species broods. Increased competition with other scavengers has also contributed to the population decline of American burying beetles.

US Federal List: endangered

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: probably extirpated

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: critically endangered

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Khetani, S. and T. Parker 2011. "Nicrophorus americanus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Nicrophorus_americanus.html
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Life Cycle

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American burying beetles lay their eggs on a carcass of an animal 50 to 200 g in size, and eggs hatch within a few days of being laid. Parents regurgitate food for the larvae until they are able to feed themselves. After larvae feed on the carcass for about a week, parents leave and larvae pupate in the nearby soil. After another month, they emerge as adult beetles.

Development - Life Cycle: metamorphosis

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Khetani, S. and T. Parker 2011. "Nicrophorus americanus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Nicrophorus_americanus.html
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Benefits

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There are no known adverse effects of American burying beetles on humans.

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Khetani, S. and T. Parker 2011. "Nicrophorus americanus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Nicrophorus_americanus.html
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Benefits

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There are no known direct positive effects of American burying beetles on humans.

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Khetani, S. and T. Parker 2011. "Nicrophorus americanus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Nicrophorus_americanus.html
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Associations

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As scavengers, American burying beetles play an important role in recycling decaying materials.

American burying beetles have a symbiotic relationship with mites Poecilochirus. A beetle provides mites with access to food and means of dispersal, and the mites clean the beetle of microbes and fly eggs that are carried up from carrions.

Ecosystem Impact: biodegradation

Mutualist Species:

  • Poecilochirus
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Khetani, S. and T. Parker 2011. "Nicrophorus americanus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Nicrophorus_americanus.html
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Trophic Strategy

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American burying beetles are scavengers. Adults hunt for decaying carcasses, which are either used as a source of food or are buried for future use by larvae.

Animal Foods: carrion

Primary Diet: carnivore (Scavenger )

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Distribution

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American burying beetles, Nicrophorus americanus, at one time may have ranged throughout the United States and Canada. Many populations in Canada, however, are now extinct, and their range is now largely confined to Alaska and the east and west coasts of the United States. They are currently found in only 6 states in United States and are being reintroduced in some areas.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

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Habitat

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Specific habitat preference of American burying beetles is unknown. Like many endangered species, this species seems largely confined to areas with the least human influence. American burying beetles thrive in areas with an abundance of carrion and have been found in grasslands, scrublands and forest edges.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; forest ; scrub forest

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Khetani, S. and T. Parker 2011. "Nicrophorus americanus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Nicrophorus_americanus.html
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Life Expectancy

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American burying beetles typical live 1 year. Newly emerged adults remain in the soil during the winter season and mate in the summer. Adults die after raising their offspring.

Average lifespan
Status: wild:
1 years.

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Khetani, S. and T. Parker 2011. "Nicrophorus americanus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Nicrophorus_americanus.html
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Morphology

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American burying beetles are the largest carrion-feeding insects in North America, growing up to 35 mm in length. Most carrion beetles of the genus Nicrophorus, including American burying beetles, have shiny black wings with distinctively marked bright orange bands on each wing cover. Unlike other species, however, American burying beetles also have a pronotum, a shield-like area just behind the head. They also have a small orange patch on their face between the eyes. In males this patch is square, while it is triangular in females

Range length: 30 to 35 mm.

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes colored or patterned differently

Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; bilateral symmetry

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Khetani, S. and T. Parker 2011. "Nicrophorus americanus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Nicrophorus_americanus.html
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Associations

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There are no known predators of American burying beetles.

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Khetani, S. and T. Parker 2011. "Nicrophorus americanus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Nicrophorus_americanus.html
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Biology

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Burying beetles receive their common name from their specialised mechanism of parental care that involves providing the growing larvae with carrion upon which to feed. At night, beetle pairs will locate a suitable carcass and then cooperate to bury it in the soil, thus protecting their find from competition with other species (2). Once the carcass is beneath the soil, the beetles strip away the fur or feathers and produce a compact ball; the female then lays her eggs in a chamber created above the carcass (2). Unusually for insects, the parents both remain to provide for the larvae after they have hatched, regurgitating food for the growing grubs until they are able to feed for themselves (2). Roughly a week later, the larvae pupate in the soil nearby, having consumed the entire food supply; they will emerge as adults around a month later and overwinter in this stage (2). American burying beetles only live for one season and adults die soon after they have ceased to provide for their young (2).
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Conservation

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The precarious sate of the population of American burying beetles was recognised in 1989 when the species was listed as Endangered on the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Endangered Species List (3). A Recovery Plan has been drawn up, and searches for remnant populations are underway (2). In Rhode Island and Oklahoma, the known populations are monitored and their habitats managed, and in Massachusetts a number of beetles, from a captive population at Boston University, have been released (2).
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Description

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The American burying beetle is the largest carrion beetle in North America (2). It has extremely distinctive colouration, being shiny black with bright orange markings; there are four orange bands on the wing cases (known as 'elytra'), but unusually the pronotum and face also have orange markings (2).
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Habitat

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The specific habitat requirements of this species are not fully understood and it appears that the availability of carrion may be the limiting factor. In Nebraska, beetles have been observed in grassland prairie, scrubland and forest edges (2).
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Range

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Historically found throughout the eastern United States and into southern Canada (2), this burying beetle is today restricted to populations in a handful of central States (3).
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Status

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Classified as Critically Endangered (CR - A1c) on the IUCN Red List 2002 (1).
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Threats

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American burying beetles have been lost from the majority of their former range; populations in the east had largely disappeared by the 1920s, whilst the decline in the American Midwest was well documented in the 1980s (2). One of the major causes of this decline in abundance is the fragmentation of available habitat; leading to changes in the availability of carrion, increased competition, and the isolation of remaining popualtions (2).
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Nicrophorus americanus

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Not to be confused with the non-endangered American Carrion Beetle (Necrophila americana) in the same family.
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Nicrophorus americanus, also known as the American burying beetle or giant carrion beetle, is a critically endangered species of beetle endemic to North America.[1] It belongs to the order Coleoptera and the family Silphidae. The carrion beetle in North America is carnivorous, feeds on carrion and requires carrion to breed. It is also one of the few species of beetle to exhibit parental care. The decline of the American burying beetle has been attributed to habitat loss, alteration, and degradation, and they now occur over less than 10% of their historic range.

Description

N. americanus is between 25 and 45 mm long and can be identified by its striking, distinctive coloring. The body is shiny black, and on its wing covers are four scalloped, orange-red markings. Most distinctively, there is an orange-red marking on the beetle's pronotum, a large shield-like area just behind the head. N. americanus has orange facial markings and orange tips on their large antennae. The beetle is nocturnal and is a strong flier, moving as far as a kilometer in one night.

Reproduction

During the winter months when temperatures are below 15 °C (60 °F) N. americanus adults bury themselves in the soil to overwinter. When temperatures are above 15 °C (60 °F) they emerge from the soil and begin the mating and reproduction process. Burying beetles are unusual in that both the male and female take part in raising the young. Male burying beetles often locate carcasses first and then attract a mate. Beetles often fight over the carcass, with usually the largest male and female individuals winning. The victors bury the carcass, the pair mates, and the female lays her eggs in an adjacent tunnel. Within a few days, the larvae develop and both parents feed and tend their young, an unusual activity among insects, but a characteristic shared with the earwig. Brood size usually ranges from one to 30 young, but 12 to 15 is the average size.

The larvae spend about a week feeding off the carcass then crawl into the soil to pupate, or develop. Mature N. americanus beetles emerge from the soil 45 to 60 days after their parents initially bury the carcass. Adult American burying beetles live for only 12 months.

Ecology and behavior

Historical records offer little insight into what type of habitat was preferred by the American burying beetle. Current information suggests that this species is a habitat generalist, or one that lives in many types of habitat, with a slight preference for grasslands and open understory oak hickory forests. However, the beetles are carrion specialists in that they need carrion the size of a dove or a chipmunk in order to reproduce. Carrion availability may be the greatest factor determining where the species can survive.

Conservation status

 src=
Current and historical range of N. americanus.

Historical records show that this beetle once lived in 35 states of the United States, the District of Columbia, and three Canadian provinces: Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia. Now, natural populations are known to occur in only five states and at least one province: on Block Island in Rhode Island, Oklahoma, Arkansas, South Dakota, Nebraska and Ontario. They have also been reintroduced to Ohio. In Oklahoma, petitions were made in 2015 and 2016 to delist the species from endangered status as it came in the way of the oil and gas industry in the region.[2] N. americanus was listed as an endangered species in 1989; the IUCN lists the species as critically endangered. Biologists have not determined conclusively why N. americanus has disappeared from so many areas. Widespread use of pesticides may have caused local populations to disappear. The dramatic disappearance of this insect from many areas, however, took place before widespread use of DDT. Lack of small carcasses to bury would prevent the species from reproducing, and changes in land use has reduced the quantity of small- to medium-sized birds and mammals preferred by N. americanus. Even the extinction of the once ubiquitous passenger pigeon may have had a ripple effect on carrion feeders like this beetle.

The immediate goal of conservation efforts is to reduce the threat of extinction by creating captive and wild populations. Biologists have attempted to establish a beetle population releasing laboratory-raised American burying beetles on Penikese Island and Nantucket island in Massachusetts. Biologists return each year to both islands to study the survival and growth of the beetle population.

References

  1. ^ World Conservation Monitoring Centre (1996). "Nicrophorus americanus". The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN. 1996: e.T14760A4460296. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.1996.RLTS.T14760A4460296.en. Retrieved 9 January 2018..mw-parser-output cite.citation{font-style:inherit}.mw-parser-output q{quotes:"""""'"'"}.mw-parser-output code.cs1-code{color:inherit;background:inherit;border:inherit;padding:inherit}.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-free a{background:url("//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/65/Lock-green.svg/9px-Lock-green.svg.png")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-limited a,.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-registration a{background:url("//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/d6/Lock-gray-alt-2.svg/9px-Lock-gray-alt-2.svg.png")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-subscription a{background:url("//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/a/aa/Lock-red-alt-2.svg/9px-Lock-red-alt-2.svg.png")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration{color:#555}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription span,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration span{border-bottom:1px dotted;cursor:help}.mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{display:none;font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error{font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration,.mw-parser-output .cs1-format{font-size:95%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-left,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-left{padding-left:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-right,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-right{padding-right:0.2em}
  2. ^ Thomas, Brett (2015). "Bugging the oil and gas industry: the American burying beetle in Oklahoma". Oil and Gas, Natural Resources, and Energy Journal. 1 (2): 221–240.

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Nicrophorus americanus: Brief Summary

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Nicrophorus americanus, also known as the American burying beetle or giant carrion beetle, is a critically endangered species of beetle endemic to North America. It belongs to the order Coleoptera and the family Silphidae. The carrion beetle in North America is carnivorous, feeds on carrion and requires carrion to breed. It is also one of the few species of beetle to exhibit parental care. The decline of the American burying beetle has been attributed to habitat loss, alteration, and degradation, and they now occur over less than 10% of their historic range.

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