Past, present and future status of the endangered American burying beetle (Nicrophorus americanus) in Texas

Date
2010-08
Authors
Bauer, Kendra Kim
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Abstract

Nicrophorus americanus is a federally endangered species whose range has decreased dramatically since the 1920s. It is a nocturnal species that is only active from May to September when temperatures reach at least 15.5°C for three nights in a row. It once ranged throughout North America, from Maine and the southern parts of Canada, west to South Dakota and south to Texas. The historic Texas population consists of four Texas specimens from the 1880s residing at the Philadelphia Academy of Science Invertebrate Collection. Since then, there were no confirmed specimens in Texas, until 2003 when a single individual was found in Lamar County, Texas. The population discovered in Lamar County has been on a steady decrease from 2005, 223 individuals captured, until 2008 only 8 individuals captured. Since 2008, no individuals have been captured in Texas, despite intense surveys. It is possible that the Texas population is a sink population with the Oklahoma population to its north, acting as the source. Genetic analysis of the Texas and Oklahoma populations would help to answer this question and analysis of the entire population may answer questions to why the species declined leaving only the peripheral populations. The specific habitat variables that caused the population to re-colonize and go extinct in Texas are unclear, but when determined could play a critical role in managing the population.

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