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Climate-mediated cooperation promotes niche expansion in burying beetles

  1. Syuan-Jyun Sun
  2. Dustin R Rubenstein
  3. Bo-Fei Chen
  4. Shih-Fan Chan
  5. Jian-Nan Liu
  6. Mark Liu
  7. Wenbe Hwang
  8. Ping-Shih Yang
  9. Sheng-Feng Shen  Is a corresponding author
  1. Biodiversity Research Center, Academia Sinica, Taiwan
  2. Columbia University, United States
  3. National University of Tainan, Taiwan
  4. National Taiwan University, Taiwan
Research Article
  • Cited 21
  • Views 3,254
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Cite this article as: eLife 2014;3:e02440 doi: 10.7554/eLife.02440

Abstract

The ability to form cooperative societies may explain why humans and social insects have come to dominate the earth. Here we examine the ecological consequences of cooperation by quantifying the fitness of cooperative (large groups) and non-cooperative (small groups) phenotypes in burying beetles (Nicrophorus nepalensis) along an elevational and temperature gradient. We experimentally created large and small groups along the gradient and manipulated interspecific competition with flies by heating carcasses. We show that cooperative groups performed as thermal generalists with similarly high breeding success at all temperatures and elevations, whereas non-cooperative groups performed as thermal specialists with higher breeding success only at intermediate temperatures and elevations. Studying the ecological consequences of cooperation may not only help us to understand why so many species of social insects have conquered the earth, but also to determine how climate change will affect the success of these and other social species, including our own.

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Syuan-Jyun Sun

    Biodiversity Research Center, Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  2. Dustin R Rubenstein

    Columbia University, New York, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  3. Bo-Fei Chen

    Biodiversity Research Center, Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  4. Shih-Fan Chan

    Biodiversity Research Center, Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  5. Jian-Nan Liu

    Biodiversity Research Center, Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  6. Mark Liu

    Biodiversity Research Center, Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  7. Wenbe Hwang

    National University of Tainan, Tainan, Taiwan
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  8. Ping-Shih Yang

    National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  9. Sheng-Feng Shen

    Biodiversity Research Center, Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan
    For correspondence
    shensf@sinica.edu.tw
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.

Ethics

Animal experimentation: All of the animals were handled according to approved Biosafety Committee protocols of the Academia Sinica. The protocol was approved by the Biosafety Committee of Academia Sinica (Permit Number:BSF0412-00002446).

Reviewing Editor

  1. Marcel Dicke, Wageningen University, The Netherlands

Publication history

  1. Received: January 31, 2014
  2. Accepted: April 25, 2014
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: May 13, 2014 (version 1)
  4. Version of Record published: June 3, 2014 (version 2)

Copyright

© 2014, Sun et al.

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.

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