Partitioning resources through the seasons: abundance and phenology of carrion beetles (Silphidae) in southeastern Ontario, Canada

Publication: Canadian Journal of Zoology
9 August 2021


The coexistence of ecologically similar species is thought to require resource partitioning to minimize competition. Phenological, seasonal differences in activity may provide an important axis for resource partitioning. Here, we test for evidence of seasonal differences in activity within a diverse guild of carrion beetles (Silphidae) in a habitat preserve on the Frontenac Arch, southeastern Ontario, Canada, using a large-scale survey during their active seasons (April to October). We then used generalized additive models to test for differences in seasonal abundance among eight co-occurring carrion beetle species, including five species of burying beetles (Nicrophorinae: Nicrophorus Fabricius, 1775) and three species from the Silphinae subfamily. Consistent with previous work, all species showed seasonal variation in abundance, with peak abundance of most species occurring between June and August. All but one species (Nicrophorus sayi Laporte, 1840) showed positive relationships between abundance and temperature. We find evidence consistent with seasonal partitioning of resources among Nicrophorus habitat generalists that could potentially reduce competition for limited carrion resources. In contrast, we find little evidence for seasonal differences in abundance among Nicrophorus habitat specialists, which instead may partition resources spatially. Overall, our results provide evidence consistent with an important role for seasonal resource partitioning among carrion beetle species that show higher levels of spatial (habitat) overlap within a temperate beetle guild.


Pour minimiser la concurrence, les espèces semblables d’un point de vue écologique pourraient devoir faire preuve de partage préférentiel des ressources. Des différences saisonnières phénologiques de l’activité pourraient constituer un important axe de partage des ressources. Nous tentons de déterminer s’il y a des différences saisonnières d’activité au sein d’une guilde variée de coléoptères nécrophages (silphidés) dans une réserve d’habitat dans l’arche de Frontenac (sud-est de l’Ontario, Canada) en utilisant un levé à grande échelle durant leurs saisons d’activité (d’avril à octobre). Nous utilisons ensuite des modèles additifs généralisés pour déceler la présence de variations d’abondance saisonnières entre huit espèces de coléoptères nécrophages cooccurrentes, dont cinq espèces de scarabées terrassiers (nicrophorinés : Nicrophorus Fabricius, 1775) et trois espèces de la sous-famille des silphinés. À l’instar de résultats de travaux antérieurs, toutes les espèces présentent des variations saisonnières d’abondance, l’abondance maximum étant observée entre juin et août pour la plupart des espèces. Toutes les espèces sauf une (Nicrophorus sayi Laporte, 1840) présentent des relations positives entre l’abondance et la température. Nous relevons des indices d’un partage saisonnier des ressources entre différents Nicrophorus généralistes en matière d’habitat qui pourrait potentiellement réduire la concurrence pour des ressources de cadavres limitées. En revanche, nous relevons peu d’indices de différences saisonnières d’abondance chez les Nicrophorus spécialistes en matière d’habitat, qui pourraient plutôt avoir recours au partage spatial des ressources. Globalement, nos résultats soutiennent l’interprétation d’un rôle important du partage saisonnier des ressources entre différentes espèces de coléoptères nécrophages caractérisées par un haut degré de chevauchement spatial (d’habitats) au sein d’une guilde de coléoptères de climat tempéré. [Traduit par la Rédaction]

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cover image Canadian Journal of Zoology
Canadian Journal of Zoology
Volume 99Number 11November 2021
Pages: 961 - 973


Received: 19 April 2021
Accepted: 8 June 2021
Published online: 9 August 2021


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Key Words

  1. Silphidae
  2. burying beetles
  3. Nicrophorus
  4. phenology
  5. seasonal partitioning
  6. temporal partitioning
  7. resource partitioning
  8. species coexistence
  9. niche partitioning
  10. community ecology


  1. silphidés
  2. scarabées fouisseurs
  3. Nicrophorus
  4. phénologie
  5. partage saisonnier
  6. partage temporel
  7. partage des ressources
  8. coexistence d’espèces
  9. partage de niches
  10. écologie des communautés



J.D. Wettlaufer
Department of Biology, Queen’s University, 116 Barrie Street, Kingston, ON K7L 3N6, Canada.
K.W. Burke
Department of Biology, Queen’s University, 116 Barrie Street, Kingston, ON K7L 3N6, Canada.
D.V. Beresford
Department of Biology, Trent University, 2140 East Bank Drive, Peterborough, ON K9L 1Z8, Canada.
P.R. Martin
Department of Biology, Queen’s University, 116 Barrie Street, Kingston, ON K7L 3N6, Canada.


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Funding Information

Funding for this work was provided by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada to P.R.M. (NSERC Discovery grants 355519-2013 and 04452-2018).

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