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What limits insect fecundity? Body size- and temperature-dependent egg maturation and oviposition in a butterfly
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology. Zoologisk Ekologi. (Gotthard)
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology. Zoologisk Ekologi. (Gotthard)
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology. Zoologisk Ekologi. (Gotthard)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-4560-6271
2008 (English)In: Functional Ecology, ISSN 0269-8463, Vol. 22, no 3, 523-529 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

1. Large female insects usually have high potential fecundity. Therefore selection should favour an increase in body size given that these females get opportunities to realize their potential advantage by maturing and laying more eggs. However, ectotherm physiology is strongly temperature-dependent, and activities are carried out sufficiently only within certain temperature ranges. Thus it remains unclear if the fecundity advantage of a large size is fully realized in natural environments, where thermal conditions are limiting.

2. Insect fecundity might be limited by temperature at two levels; first eggs need to mature, and then the female needs time for strategic ovipositing of the egg. Since a female cannot foresee the number of oviposition opportunities that she will encounter on a given day, the optimal rate of egg maturation will be governed by trade-offs associated with egg- and time-limited oviposition. As females of different sizes will have different amounts of body reserves, size-dependent allocation trade-offs between the mother's condition and her egg production might be expected.

3. In the temperate butterfly Pararge aegeria, the time and temperature dependence of oviposition and egg maturation, and the interrelatedness of these two processes were investigated in a series of laboratory experiments, allowing a decoupling of the time budgets for the respective processes.

4. The results show that realized fecundity of this species can be limited by both the temperature dependence of egg maturation and oviposition under certain thermal regimes. Furthermore, rates of oviposition and egg maturation seemed to have regulatory effects upon each other. Early reproductive output was correlated with short life span, indicating a cost of reproduction. Finally, large females matured more eggs than small females when deprived of oviposition opportunities. Thus, the optimal allocation of resources to egg production seems dependent on female size.

5. This study highlights the complexity of processes underlying rates of egg maturation and oviposition in ectotherms under natural conditions. We further discuss the importance of temperature variation for egg- vs. time-limited fecundity and the consequences for the evolution of female body size in insects.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2008. Vol. 22, no 3, 523-529 p.
Keyword [en]
body size, ectotherms, egg maturation, fecundity, Lepidoptera, life-history theory, ovigenesis, oviposition
National Category
Ecology Ecology
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-14394DOI: doi:10.1111/j.1365-2435.2008.01392.xISI: 000255940400017OAI: diva2:180914
Available from: 2008-09-12 Created: 2008-09-12 Last updated: 2014-10-28Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Body Size Evolution in Butterflies
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Body Size Evolution in Butterflies
2008 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Life history research deals with the scheme of resource partitioning to a wide spectra of processes and the trade-offs shaping these events. One of the most fundamental life history trade-offs is the one of at which age- and size an organism should start to reproduce; reaching a large size at maturity is often advantageous in terms of high adult survival and reproductive potential, while to attain a larger size the organisms must prolong juvenile development which is assumed costly in terms of mortality. In holometabolous insects, a larger size usually confers increased fitness to females in terms of fecundity. Moreover, insect larvae have the capacity for fast size increase. So, it seems that there are substantial fitness benefits associated with a choice to prolong development. Surprisingly, there is a great lack of empirical support for costs of such a choice and by incorporating these observations into a life history framework one arrives at the conclusion that insect body sizes should be several times larger than observed. I study body size evolution in butterflies by closely examining the fitness consequences of variation in the age- and size at maturity. By combining both laboratory and field measures of size-fitness relationships with standard life history modelling, I arrive at the main conclusions; 1: positive size dependent predation on larvae might a) significantly increase the cost of attaining a larger size at maturity, or b) induce risk sensitive foraging responses so to slow larval growth rates and thereby restrict size at maturity, 2: ecological factors might constrain female fecundity by inducing time limitation on large females that need more time to convert all their resources into offspring, making reproductive value increase at a slower rate than body size with increased larval growth effort. These mechanisms may help to explain the inconsistency between natural observations and theoretical predictions of life history variation in insects.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Zoologiska institutionen, 2008. 120 p.
Body size evolution, age- and size at maturity, life history theory, fecundity, predation risk, juvenile growth rate, Lepidoptera
National Category
Biological Sciences
Research subject
Animal Ecology
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-7498 (URN)978-91-7155-635-6 (ISBN)
Public defence
2008-05-16, De Geersalen, Geovetenskapens hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 8 A, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Available from: 2008-04-24 Created: 2008-04-16 Last updated: 2010-01-13Bibliographically approved

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