Habitat associations of carrion beetle (coleoptera: silphidae) communities found on small mammal carrion in the Kansas Flint Hills
Necrophagous insects play an important role in decomposition and nutrient recycling of decomposing animals. Ecological studies of carrion-associated beetles enhance forensic investigations by providing information about community assemblages and predictable patterns of succession. Gaps in forensic entomology, include: 1) repeatable, replicable ecological research, 2) research sites across all geographic zones, and 3) research conducted throughout a full annual cycle. To address these gaps and observe habitat associations of carrion beetles, the influence of habitat (woodlands versus grasslands) and abiotic factors on carrion beetle (Coleoptera: Silphidae) communities were examined at three sites located within the Kansas Flint Hills. A total of 3,333 adult carrion beetles in nine species were collected from pitfall traps baited with rat carrion over twelve 4-week collecting periods. Silphid beetle community differed in species composition between grassland and woodland habitats, but communities did not differ significantly in overall mean abundance, mean species richness, or mean species diversity. Six species exhibited strong habitat associations; two associated with grassland habitats (Nicrophorus marginatus and Necrodes surinamensis), and four with woodland habitats (Nicrophorus orbicollis, Necrophila americana, Oiceoptoma noveboracense, and Nicrophorus pustulatus). These results are relevant for predicting patterns of silphid beetle communities in the Kansas Flint Hills and assist in determining corpse relocation in forensic studies.
Thesis (M.S.)--Wichita State University, Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Dept. of Biological Sciences