How Behaviour Changes Evolution: Experiments with Burying Beetles

Free nibbles and discussion between early career researchers and the speaker at New Radclifffe House, Walton St, Oxford OX2 6GG from 3.30pm

Behavioural ecologists analyse animal behaviour to understand how it is adaptive, and therefore why it persists. In our lab, the focus is slightly different. We want to know how adaptive traits, like animal behaviour, influence the subsequent course of evolution. We address this question by focusing on one social behaviour in particular, namely parental care. Our model species is the burying beetle, a remarkable insect that breeds upon the body of a small dead vertebrate. It shows elaborate parental care, which involves preparing the carcass to make an edible nest for its offspring and provisioning larvae after hatching. I will describe experiments that manipulate the provision of parental care and measure the way in which traits then evolve and adapt, in both parents and offspring. The general conclusion is that there are diverse ways in which behaviour can change evolution.