Habitat associations of carrion beetles (coleoptera: silphidae) across a full annual cycle

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Engasser, Emmy L.
Stone, Rachel L.
Jameson, Mary Liz

Engasser, E. L., Stone, R. L., & Jameson, M. L. (2021). Habitat associations of carrion beetles (coleoptera: Silphidae) across a full annual cycle. Environmental Entomology, 50(3), 605-614. doi:10.1093/ee/nvab011


Necrophagous insects play an important role in decomposition and nutrient recycling of decomposing vertebrates. Ecological studies of carrion-associated beetles enhance forensic investigations by providing information about community assemblages and predictable patterns of succession. However, lack of standardized protocols that include replication, spatial scale, and phenology reduce detection of patterns and predictions. To address these gaps and examine the influence of habitat (woodlands vs grasslands) and abiotic factors on carrion beetle (Coleoptera: Silphidae) communities, we developed an experimental approach from broad to finer scale located within the Kansas Flint Hills across a full annual cycle (12 contiguous months). In total, 3,333 adult carrion beetles in nine species were collected from pitfall traps baited with rat carrion over thirteen 4-wk collecting periods. PERMANOVA and NMDS demonstrate that the silphid beetle community was significantly different 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. Two species exhibited strong habitat associations; one associated with grassland habitat (Nicrophorus marginatus F.) and one with woodland habitat (Nicrophorus orbicollis Say). Our results reveal that habitat associations of silphid beetles can be useful in forensic investigations by determining corpse relocation and in ecological studies that explore niche filtering.

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