Geographical variation in host plant utilization in the comma butterfly: the roles of time constraints and plant phenology
2009 (English)In: Evolutionary Ecology, ISSN 0269-7653, E-ISSN 1573-8477, Vol. 23, 807-825 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
What is the role of time-constraints in determining geographical variation in the resource use of organisms? One hypothesis concerning phytophagous insects predicts a local narrowing of host plant range at localities where a short development time is important (because an additional generation per season is only just possible), with increased specialization on host plants permitting fast development. To test this hypothesis, populations of the polyphagous comma butterfly (Nymphalidae: Polygonia c-album) from five European areas (localities in Norway, Sweden, England, Belgium and Spain) were sampled and the preferences of laboratory-reared female butterflies were investigated, by a choice test between Salix caprea and the fastest host Urtica dioica. The results suggest that females of both of two northern univoltine populations (time-stressed from Norway and time-relaxed from Sweden) accept the slow host S. caprea to a higher degree than females of more southern populations with partial additional generations (time-stressed). We thus found partial support for the tested hypothesis, but also conflicting results that cast doubt on its broad generality. Moreover, a split-brood investigation on Swedish stock demonstrated that larval performance is similar on S. caprea and U. dioica early in the summer, but that later in the season S. caprea is a much inferior host. This is reflected by a seasonal trend towards specialization on U. dioica and also provides a simpler explanation than the time-constraints theory for avoidance of S. caprea (and other woody hosts) in areas with two or more generations of insects per year, illustrating the importance of plant phenology as a constraint on resource use in phytophagous insects. Absolute and relative larval performance on the two hosts varied little among populations across Europe, but lower survival on S. caprea in the populations most specialized on U. dioica and related plants may be indicative of performance trade-offs.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Dordrecht: Springer , 2009. Vol. 23, 807-825 p.
Life-history, Niche, Trade-off, Plasticity, Seasonality, Polygonia
Research subject Animal Ecology
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-30024DOI: 10.1007/s10682-008-9274-0ISI: 000269418600012OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-30024DiVA: diva2:240704