On the social structure of offspring rearing in the burrower bug, Sehirus cinctus (Hemiptera: Cydnidae)
Maternal-offspring interactions are important in a variety of animals. Understanding the evolution of these interactions requires that we also study the broader social context in which they occur. To date, behavioral studies on burrower bugs, Sehirus cinctus, have focused exclusively on interactions between mothers and offspring. Here we ask whether these interactions occur in a social context that extends beyond the family unit of a mother and her own genetic offspring. Such social structure can arise from behaviors that occur before eggs are laid, or from actions of individuals that occur post-hatching. We present field data showing that lay sites of mothers are spatially aggregated on a scale that would lead to behavioral interactions among families. Microsatellite markers suggest neighboring mothers are unrelated. Laboratory experiments do not support the hypothesis that spatial aggregation results from a direct attraction of females to one another. Other laboratory studies reported here indicate that, after hatching, unrelated clutches sometimes join together to form multifamily groups. Experiments reveal that mothers are not necessary for these joining events to occur. In sum, these data suggest that both mothers and offspring play active, but different, roles in generating the social environment in which offspring rearing occurs. © Springer-Verlag 2004.