Traits reveal ecological strategies driving carrion insect community assembly
© 2020 The Royal Entomological Society 1. The succession of carrion-associated (necrophilous) insects on decomposing carrion is well documented. To exploit the changing nutritious and dynamic resources available throughout the carrion decomposition process, different species colonise and consume carrion in a predictable temporal sequence. The traits of these necrophilous insects should reflect their ecological strategies. Morphological traits of these insects, such as body size and wing size, however, have not previously been examined during active and advanced decomposition. 2. We used fourth-corner multivariate generalised linear models to identify insect community morphological trait patterns and to quantify their change through time on decomposing rabbit carcasses in grassland and woodland environments. 3. We found that larger-bodied species of flies and carrion-specialist beetles were associated with the early stages of decomposition. The morphological traits of ants, in contrast, showed no changes at carcasses through time and instead showed body size differences between grassland and woodland environments. 4. Our findings indicate that specialist flies and beetles that arrive early in the decomposition process possess traits that enable rapid discovery of carrion at a large scale. Generalist beetles and ants do not share this same trait and are instead adapted to locate and consume a wider variety of resources in their preferred habitat type at their local scale. 5. Our results provide insights into the morphological adaptations linked to the ecological strategies of distinct components of carrion insect communities. Further, our results offer insights into the community assembly dynamics that structure the communities of necrophilous insect species.