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Proc Biol Sci. 2004 Nov 7;271(1554):2293-6.

Is death-feigning adaptive? Heritable variation in fitness difference of death-feigning behaviour.

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Faculty of Agriculture, Okayama University, Okayama 700-8530, Japan.


The adaptation of death-feigning (thanatosis), a subject that has been overlooked in evolutionary biology, was inferred in a model prey-and-predator system. We studied phenotypic variation among individuals, fitness differences, and the inheritance of death-feigning behaviour in the red flour beetle, Tribolium castaneum (Herbst) (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae). Two-way artificial selections for the duration of death-feigning, over 10 generations, showed a clear direct response in the trait and a correlated response in the frequency of death-feigning, thus indicating variation and inheritance of death-feigning behaviour. A comparison of the two selected strains with divergent frequencies of death-feigning showed a significant difference in the fitness for survival when a model predator, a female Adanson jumper spider, Hasarius adansoni Audouin (Araneomophae: Salticidae), was presented to the beetles. The frequency of predation was lower among beetles from strains selected for long-duration than among those for short-duration death-feigning. The results indicate the possibility of the evolution of death-feigning under natural selection.

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