Carrion-frequenting beetles come to carcasses at particular stages of decomposition (ecological succession) attracted by cues from microbes (semiochemicals). We are investigating whether the successional pattern can be explained by the changing profile of microbially-derived cues and whether the presence of microbes enhances or inhibits the use of carrion by invertebrate scavengers. We are intrigued by the roles of two sulfur-based compounds that have received limited study to date: methyl thiocyanate, which helps burying beetles find a fresh carcass, and methyl thiolacetate, which enhances the attractiveness of dimethyl trisulfide for beetles seeking a carcass in active decay.
Microbiology of carcass preparation
Nicrophorus pustulatus as a parasitoid of snakes
Charabidze, D., Trumbo, S.T., Grzywacz, A., Costa, J.T., Benbow, M.E., Barton, P.S. & Matuszewski, S, 2021. Convergence of social strategies in carrion breeding insects. "Bioscience" https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biab068
Trumbo, S.T. 2021. Beetle parents manipulate information broadcast from bacteria in a rotting corpse. The Conversation January 26, 2021. https://theconversation.com/beetle-parents-manipulate-information-broadcast-from-bacteria-in-a-rotting-corpse-151447
Trumbo, S.T. & Klassen, J. 2020. Editorial overview: hidden players: microbes reshape the insect niche. Current Opinion in Insect Science 39: vi-ix. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cois.2020.05.008
Trumbo, S.T. 2019. The physiology of insect families: A door to the study of social evolution. Advances in Insect Physiology 56: 203-250. download: https://authors.elsevier.com/b/1Z41BErzK7yJs DOI: 10.1016/bs.aiip.2019.02.002.
Machado, G. & Trumbo, S.T. 2018. Parental care. In: Insect Behavior: From Mechanisms to Ecological and Evolutionary Consequences (eds., Cordoba-Aguilar, A., Gonzalez-Tokman, D. & Gonzalez-Santoyo, I.), pp. 203-218. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Trumbo, S.T. 2018. Juvenile hormone and parental care in insects: implications for the role of juvenile hormone in the evolution of sociality. Current Opinion in Insect Science 28:13-18. DOI: 10.1016/j.cois.2018.04.001.
Trumbo, S.T. 2002. Hormonal regulation of parental behavior in insects. In: Hormones, Brain and Behavior, Volume 3 (eds., Pfaff, D.W., Arnold, A.P., Etgen, A.M., Fahrbach, S.E., Moss, R.L., Rubin, R.R.), pp. 115-139. Academic Press, New York.
Trumbo, S.T. & Sikes, D.S. 2021. Resource concealment and the evolution of parental care in burying beetles. "Journal of Zoology" https://doi.org/10.1111/jzo.12916
Trumbo, S.T., Philbrick, P.K.B., Stokl, J. & Steiger, S. 2021. Burying beetles adaptively manipulate information broadcast from a microbial community. The American Naturalist 197: 366-378. DOI: 10.1086/712602
Trumbo, S.T. & Dicapua, J.A. III. 2021. A synergism between dimethyl trisulfide and methyl thiolacetate in attracting carrion-frequenting beetles demonstrated by use of a chemically-supplemented minimal trap. Chemoecology 31:79-87. doi- org.ezproxy.lib.uconn.edu/10.1007/s00049-020-00330-4
Trumbo, S.T. & Steiger, S. 2020. Finding a fresh carcass: Bacterially-derived volatiles and burying beetle search success. Chemoecology 30: 287-296. DOI 10.1007/s00049-020-00318-0
Capodeanu-Nagler, A., Madlen, A.P., Trumbo, S.T., Vogel, H., Eggert, A.-K., Sakaluk, S.K. & Steiger, S. 2018. Offspring dependence on parental care and the role of parental transfer of oral fluids in burying beetles. Frontiers in Zoology 15: 33. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12983-018-0278-5.
Trumbo, S.T. 2017. Feeding upon and preserving a carcass: the function of prehatch parental care in a burying beetle. Animal Behaviour 130:241-249. DOI: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2017.07.001.
Trumbo, S.T., Sikes, D.S. & Philbrick, P.K.B. 2016. Parental care and competition with microbes in carrion beetles: a study of ecological adaptation. Animal Behaviour 118: 47-54. DOI: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2016.06.001
Sikes, D.S., Trumbo, S.T. & Peck, S.B. 2016. Cryptic diversity in the New World burying beetle fauna: Nicrophorus hebes Kirby, 1837; new status as a resurrected name (Coleoptera: Silphidae: Nicrophorinae). Arthropod Systematics and Phylogeny 74:299-309.
Trumbo, S.T. 2016. Carcass age and reproductive costs for Nicrophorus orbicollis. Environmental Entomology 45: 1178-1183. DOI: 10.1093/ee/nvw114
Trumbo, S.T. 2016. The fate of mouse carcasses in a northern woodland. Ecological Entomology 41: 737-740. DOI: 10.1111/een.12341
Trumbo, S.T. & Xhihani, E. 2015. Mass-size relationships, starvation and recovery in an engorging feeder. Physiological Entomology 40: 257-263. DOI: 10.1111/phen.12110
Trumbo, S.T. & Xhihani, E. 2015. Influences of parental care and food deprivation on regulation of body mass in a burying beetle. Ethology 121: 985-993. DOI: 10.1111/eth.12413
Trumbo, S.T. and Rauter, C.M. 2014. Juvenile hormone, metabolic rate, body mass and longevity costs in parenting burying beetles. Animal Behaviour 92: 203-211. DOI: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2014.04.004.
Trumbo, S.T. 2012. Contest behavior and other reproductive efforts in aging breeders: a test of residual reproductive value and state-dependent models. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 66: 1511-1518. DOI: 10.1007/s00265-012-1406-4.
Sikes, D.S., Vamosi, S.M., Trumbo, S.T., Ricketts, M. and Venables, C. 2008. Molecular systematics and biogeography of Nicrophorus in part - the investigator species group (Coleoptera: Silphidae) using mixture model MCMC. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 48: 646-666.
Smith, G., Trumbo, S.T., Sikes, D.S., Scott, M.P. & Smith, R.L. 2007. Host shift by the burying beetle, Nicrophorus pustulatus, a parasitoid of snake eggs. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 20: 2389-2399.
Sikes, D.S., Madge, R.B. & Trumbo, S.T. 2006. Revision of Nicrophorus in part: new species and inferred phylogeny of the nepalensis-group based on evidence from morphology and mitochondrial DNA (Coleoptera: Silphidae: Nicrophorinae). Invertebrate Systematics 20: 305-366.
Scott. M.P., Trumbo, S.T., Neese, P.A., Bailey, W.D. & Roe, R.M. 2001. Changes in biosynthesis and degradation of juvenile hormone during breeding by burying beetles: a reproductive or social role? Journal of Insect Physiology 47: 295-302.
Trumbo, S.T., Borst, D.W. & Robinson, G.E. 1995. Rapid elevation of JH titre during behavioural assessment of the breeding resource by the burying beetle Nicrophorus orbicollis. Journal of Insect Physiology 41: 535-543.
Trumbo, S.T. & Wilson, D.S. 1993. Brood discrimination, nestmate discrimination and determinants of social behavior in facultatively quasisocial beetles (Nicrophorus spp.). Behavioral Ecology 4: 332-339.
Trumbo, S.T. & Fiore, A.J. 1991. A genetic marker for investigating paternity and maternity in the burying beetle Nicrophorus orbicollis (Coleoptera: Silphidae) . Journal of the New York Entomological Society 99: 637-642.
Trumbo, S.T., Smith, G., Sikes, D.S. 2005. Number vs. body size of offspring in biparental burying beetles. In: Learning the Skills of Research: Animal Behavior Exercises in the Laboratory and Field (eds., Jakob, E.M. & Hodge, M.). Compact Disc. Sinauer, New York (2nd edition, 2009).
Images of burying beetles
All images of beetles on this webpage may be used for noncommercial educational purposes. Click on thumbnail for higher resolution image.
Video of burying beetles
From Our Lab: Video from our lab may be used for noncommercial educational purposes.
Burying beetles preparing a mouse carcass https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=klpnnUENbxA
Parental care and brood reduction in Nicrophorus orbicollis http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yRarHKpOf_8
Nicrophorus pustulatus exploiting a snake egg http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zy2vxstcWiQ
Infanticidal takeover of a carcass http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CQ9fFslNx_E&NR=1
National Geographic Wild https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y9iZvsClC10
Theatrical view of burying beetles http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=enazNu0YgPs
National Geographic view of burying beetles http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CUOPx1q5bjk
American Burying Beetle - Saint Louis Zoo http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H75rJGLaSNk
Tracking the American Burying Beetle - Saint Louis Zoo http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cPJRu-celQ0
Time lapse video of the burial https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vwcvYEqxfEg
Websites & Links
Sikes, D. S., S. T. Trumbo, S. B. Peck. 1999. Nicrophorus Central https://web.archive.org/web/20050310225611/http://collections2.eeb.uconn.edu/nicroweb/nicrophorus.htm A website developed by Derek Sikes for all things nicrophorine
Sikes, D. S., S. T. Trumbo, S. B. Peck. 2005. Silphidae node on the Tree of Life http://tolweb.org/tree?group=Silphidae Created by Derek Sikes
BugGuide of Nicrophorus Iowa State University Entomology
Hoback, W.W., Snethen, D.G., Brust, M.L. http://www.lopers.net/student_org/NebraskaInverts/cbeetles/Genera/nicrophorus/home.htm
Carrion Beetles of Nebraska developed at the University of Nebraska at Kearney
Mailing address (1):
Department of EEB
99 E. Main St.
Waterbury, CT 06702
Mailing address (2):
Department of EEB
75 N. Eagleville Road, U-3043
Storrs, CT 06269