The Nicrophorus vespilloides genome and methylome, a beetle with complex social behavior
Christopher B Cunningham, Lexiang Ji, R. Axel W Wiberg, Jennifer M Shelton, Elizabeth C McKinney, Darren J Parker, Richard B Meagher, Kyle M Benowitz, Eileen M Roy-Zokan, Michael G Ritchie, Susan J Brown, Robert J Schmitz, Allen J Moore
Testing for conserved and novel mechanisms underlying phenotypic evolution requires a diversity of genomes available for comparison spanning multiple independent lineages. For example, complex social behavior in insects has been investigated primarily with eusocial lineages, nearly all of which are Hymenoptera. If conserved genomic influences on sociality do exist, we need data from a wider range of taxa that also vary in their levels of sociality. Here we present information on the genome of the subsocial beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides, a species long used to investigate evolutionary questions of complex social behavior. We used this genome to address two questions. First, does life history predict overlap in gene models more strongly than phylogenetic groupings? Second, like other insects with highly developed social behavior but unlike other beetles, does N. vespilloides have DNA methylation? We found the overlap in gene models was similar between N. vespilloides and all other insect groups regardless of life history. Unlike previous studies of beetles, we found strong evidence of DNA methylation, which allows this species to be used to address questions about the potential role of methylation in social behavior. The addition of this genome adds a coleopteran resource to answer questions about the evolution and mechanistic basis of sociality.