Date of Award

Spring 2019

Project Type


Program or Major

Biological Sciences

Degree Name

Master of Science

First Advisor

Carrie L Hall

Second Advisor

Thomas Lee

Third Advisor

Daniel Howard


The persistence of burying beetles (Silphidae: Nicrophorus) depends on the successful acquisition of a highly competitive resource. Breeding pairs of the Nicrophorine genus work together to bury and prepare a suitable carcass as food for their developing larvae. To understand the mechanisms allowing for the persistence of multiple burying beetle species in Nicrophorine-rich communities, this thesis explores how sympatric burying beetles utilize space and time to partition the carrion resource. Further, to explore how thermal environments influence the reproductive biology of burying beetles, the response of Nicrophorus marginatus, both within and across generations is measured by monitoring rearing behaviors, movement activity, and brood characteristics with exposure to varying temperature regimes. The results of these studies present an important interplay between space use and temporal activity patterns that may serve to mediate negative interactions among sympatric buying beetle species. Generally, where species exhibit high temporal or spatial overlap, they are segregated along the alternative niche dimension. Future work on this community of burying beetles should examine the trophic ecology of species that appear to overlap spatially and temporally. The findings of these studies also indicate that increasing temperatures may impose direct fitness consequences on populations of N. marginatus. While this species appears to exhibit higher activity in elevated temperatures, they also exhibited extended burial timing and significantly reduced reproductive success rates. Efforts should be made to increase our understanding of the thermal capacity of the Nicrophorine genus as a whole.