Behavioral plasticity and G × E of reproductive tactics in Nicrophorus vespilloides burying beetles

Mauricio J. Carter, Megan L. Head, Allen J. Moore, Nick J. Royle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Phenotypic plasticity is important in the evolution of traits and facilitates adaptation to rapid environmental changes. However, variation in plasticity at the individual level, and the heritable basis underlying this plasticity is rarely quantified for behavioral traits. Alternative behavioral reproductive tactics are key components of mating systems but are not often considered within a phenotypic plasticity framework (i.e., as reaction norms). Here, using lines artificially selected for repeated mating rate, we test for genetic (G × E) sources of variation in reproductive behavior of male Nicrophorus vespilloides burying beetles (including signaling behavior), as well as the role of individual body size, in responsiveness to changes in social environment. The results show that body size influences the response of individuals' signaling behavior to changes in the social environment. Moreover, there was G × E underlying the responses of males to variation in the quality of social environment experienced (relative size of focal male compared to his rival). This shows that individual variation in plasticity and social sensitivity of signaling behavior can evolve in response to selection on investment in mating behavior, with males selected for high mating investment having greater social sensitivity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)969-978
Number of pages10
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015


  • Alternative reproductive tactics
  • Conditional strategy
  • Contest behavior
  • Male-male competition
  • Phenotypic plasticity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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