Mother Beetles Release Unattractive Pheromones to Turn Off Frisky Males

Michele Debczak
Gary Chang via Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0
Gary Chang via Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0 / Gary Chang via Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

New burying beetle moms have a lot on their plates. The last thing they want to deal with is unwanted sexual advances from their male counterparts, and thanks to a neat evolutionary trick they don't have to.

According to a study recently published in Nature Communications [PDF], female burying beetles raising larvae release particularly unappealing pheromones in order to suppress sexual impulses in males. Not only does this save the mother some hassle, but it's good for the whole family as well.

Burying beetles are exceptional in that both males and females raise their young together. The mother's chemical form of rejection allows the two parents to focus on caring for the offspring without any needless distractions. This same pheromone is also a signal that the beetle has paused her egg production, so any copulation that did still take place would be pointless.

The discovery was made by researchers at universities in Germany by attracting beetles with mouse carcasses left in the woods near the school. In addition to using the mouse as a food source, it also acts as a vessel for the beetle's nest. The insect is part of a larger family of corpse-inhabiting creatures known as carrion beetles.

[h/t The Verge]