Date published:

Social strategies of carrion breeding insects

Charabidze D., Trumbo S., Grzywacz A., Costa J.T., Benbow M.E., Barton P.S., Matuszewski S., Convergence of social strategies in carrion breeding insects. BioScience 2021, 71: 1028-1037,

DOI: 10.1093/biosci/biab068.

The article is a synthesis that reviews the occurrence, evolution and effects of social behavior in carrion breeding insects.

Carrion is highly ephemeral and rich in nutrients. This is a microenvironment, in which extreme biotic and abiotic stressors create harsh conditions for development of carrion insects. In the article we hypothesized that these constraints, and in particular ephemerality of carrion and competition with microbes, have promoted the evolution of social behaviors in necrophagous insects. By synthetizing recent findings in carrion ecology, we show that group living is prevalent among carrion breeding insects that colonize carrion early in the succession. This trait has emerged as an adaptation to facilitate survival in the highly competitive environment of fresh carrion. We also highlight that construction of specific developmental niches by necrophagous larvae allows them to effectively compete with microbes and feed and develop efficiently on fresh cadavers. Larval societies and parental care, major social strategies of carrion insects, respond to similar biotic and abiotic constraints of carrion.

The review concludes that intra and interspecific competition on carrion are mitigated by social behavior of carrion breeding insects.