Adjustment of Parental Investment in the Dung Beetle Onthophagus atripennis (Col., Scarabaeidae)


Shigeki Kishi, Laboratory of Insect Ecology, Graduate School of Agriculture, Kyoto University, Sakyo, Kyoto, Japan.


If parents can invest resources optimally per offspring, they should adjust the amount of investment in an offspring according to environmental heterogeneity. Many studies have demonstrated changes in egg size or the amount of resource supplied in response to environmental heterogeneity. However, it remains unclear whether parents simply know the resource type a priori or can assess resource quality and adjust the quantity of investment accordingly. We examined the parental capability to adjust the amount of investment per offspring by providing Onthophagus atripennis dung beetle parents with one of three dung types of different quality: monkey dung (high quality), cow dung (low quality), or a mixture of monkey and cow dung (medium quality). The beetle parents cooperatively produce dung brood masses each with one egg under the ground. The size of a brood mass, on which a larva can only feed until adult, represents a large part of the amount of investment. Parents produced a greater number of smaller brood masses given high-quality resource, while they compensated for low quality of the resource by providing a larger amount of the resource, at the cost of offspring number. However, despite this compensation in the amount of food, offspring raised on low-quality food was still smaller than offspring raised on high-quality food. Thus, O. atripennis parents assessed resource quality partly and adjusted the amount of resource provided for their offspring.