Location: Food and Feed Safety Research
Title: Delayed insect access alters carrion decomposition and necrophagous insect community assembly Authors
|Pechal, Jennifer -|
|Benbow, M -|
|Tarone, Aaron -|
|Tomberlin, Jeffery -|
Submitted to: Ecosphere
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: March 4, 2014
Publication Date: April 14, 2014
Repository URL: http://handle.nal.usda.gov/10113/58701
Citation: Pechal, J.L., Benbow, M.E., Crippen, T.L., Tarone, A.M., Tomberlin, J.K. 2014. Delayed insect access alters carrion decomposition and necrophagous insect community assembly. Ecosphere. 5:art45. http://dx.doi.org/10.1890/ES14-00022.1. Interpretive Summary: Animal carrion in ecosystems is an unpredictable resource that briefly contributes to the local nutrient value. We hypothesized that delaying insect utilization of animal carrion would cause shifts in the local insect community species and their survival. The study determined that delaying insect access caused an increase in the number of species attracted to carrion once access was allowed. Additionally, during the first five days of decay, carcasses with delayed insect access remained in the bloat stage while those with unrestricted insect access decayed naturally. Therefore, restricting insect access resulted in slower decomposition rates and highlighted the importance of the insect community on the overall decomposition process. Animal decomposition has not been as well studied as other organic matter processes (e.g., leaf detritus). These data suggest that insect interactions with animal carcasses may have broader impacts on the decaying processes and this affects waste management at animal production facilities.
Technical Abstract: Vertebrate carrion in terrestrial ecosystems is an unpredictable, ephemeral resource pulse that contributes to local biodiversity and nutrient transformation dynamics. We hypothesized that delayed insect access to carrion would demonstrate marked shifts in necrophagous insect community structure, turnover rates, and overall assembly. Despite similarities between taxon arrival patterns, delayed insect access was associated with increased taxon richness and turnover rates of the necrophagous community attracted to carrion. Additionally, during the first five days of decomposition, carcasses with delayed insect access remained in bloat stage while those naturally colonized were in active decomposition. This resulted in marked differences in decomposition rates and highlighted the importance of insect community assembly in the decomposition process. Carrion decomposition has been infrequently studied compared to other organic matter processes (e.g., leaf detritus), and these data suggest that the ecology of carrion-insect interactions can contribute to a broader understanding of decomposition processes and ecosystem function.