New RBC Publication: Endangered American Burying Beetle


New RBC Publication: Endangered American Burying Beetle

A paper written by Douglas Leasure and Wyatt Hoback will soon appear in the Journal of Insect Conservation; it is titled “Distribution and habitat of the endangered American burying beetle in northern and southern regions.” The American Burying Beetle, Nicrophorus americanus, is a federally protected, endangered species of beetle that once was found in most of the US but now is limited to three small populations. Researchers are still unsure what has caused this species’ decline, but it could be due to artificial light, agriculture, or a lack of appropriately sized carcasses that the beetles need for reproduction.

In this project, researchers used GIS methods to compile over 2500 presence-absence records for the American Burying Beetle. This dataset was then used to create distribution maps for two of the three remaining populations and describe the preferred habitat of each population. Researchers concluded that while the two populations have varying habitat preferences that may be driven by differences in topography and land use between the northern and southern ranges, the beetles are associated with moist, sandy-soiled areas, and avoid agricultural and urban land, perhaps because of pesticide use.





Range Map of northern population.

Fig. 2
Predicted distribution of N. americanus in its northern range (color version available online). Black and dark gray areas (red online) are presence locations; white and light gray areas (blue online) are absence locations based on a probability of occurrence threshold of 0.307 which balanced false positive and false negative rates. Light gray areas (dark red online) have false negative rates less than 5%. Dark gray areas (dark blue online) have false positive rates less than 5%. Pseudo-probabilities are the proportion of classification trees in the random forest model that “voted” for presence versus absence.


Because the drivers behind the American Burying Beetle’s decline are still poorly understood, this research is important for the species’ conservation. With accurate distribution maps and an understanding of habitat requirements, conservation plans can be created that help save this species from extinction.

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