Sibling competition does not exacerbate inbreeding depression in the burying beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides

Natalie Pilakouta, Daniel Sieber, Per Smiseth

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11 Citations (Scopus)


Inbreeding results from matings between relatives and can cause a reduction in offspring fitness, known as inbreeding depression. Previous work has shown that a wide range of environmental stresses, such as extreme temperatures, starvation and parasitism, can exacerbate inbreeding depression. It has recently been argued that stresses due to intraspecific competition should have a stronger effect on the severity of inbreeding depression than stresses due to harsh physical conditions. Here, we tested whether an increase in the intensity of sibling competition can exacerbate inbreeding depression in the burying beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides. We used a 2 × 3 factorial design with offspring inbreeding status (outbred or inbred) and brood size (5, 20, or 40 larvae) as the two factors. We found a main effect of inbreeding status, as inbred larvae had lower survival than outbred larvae, and a main effect of brood size, as larvae in large broods had lower survival and mass than larvae in medium-sized broods. However, there was no effect of the interaction between inbreeding status and brood size, suggesting that sibling competition did not influence the severity of inbreeding depression. Since we focused on sibling competition within homogeneous broods of either inbred or outbred larvae, we cannot rule out possible effects of sibling competition on inbreeding depression in mixed paternity broods comprising of both inbred and outbred offspring. More information on whether and when sibling competition might influence inbreeding depression can help advance our understanding of the causes underlying variation in the severity of inbreeding depression.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)704-710
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Evolutionary Biology
Issue number4
Early online date15 Jan 2016
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information
Institute of Evolutionary Biology and the School of Biological Sciences
University of Edinburgh


  • burying beetle
  • environmental stress
  • fitness
  • inbreeding depression
  • Nicrophorus vespilloides
  • sibling competition


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