Effects of age and experience on contest behavior in the burying beetle, Nicrophorus vespilloides

Victoria E. Lee, Megan L. Head*, Mauricio J. Carter, Nick J. Royle

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Contest behavior forms an important part of reproductive investment. Life-history theory predicts that as individuals age and their residual reproductive value decreases, they should increase investment in contest behavior. However, other factors such as social experience may also be important in determining age-related variation in contest behavior. To understand how selection acts on contest behavior over an individual's lifetime, it is therefore important to tease apart the effects of age per se from other factors that may vary with age. Here, we independently manipulate male age and social experience to examine their effects on male contest behavior in the burying beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides. We found that social experience, but not age, influenced male contest behavior but that these changes in behavior did not alter contest outcomes. Male size (relative to his opponent) was overwhelmingly the most important factor determining contest outcome. Our results suggest that in systems with high variation in fighting ability among males, there may be little opportunity for selection to act on factors that influence contest outcomes by altering motivation to win.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)172-179
Number of pages8
JournalBehavioral Ecology
Issue number1
Early online date8 Nov 2013
Publication statusPrint publication - Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Age
  • Contest behavior
  • Fighting
  • Male competition
  • Nicrophorus vespilloides
  • Social experience
  • Terminal investment
  • Winner-loser effect


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