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Small body size in an insect shifts development, prior to adult eclosion, towards early reproduction

By A D Thorne, J J Pexton, C Dytham and P J Mayhew


Life-history theory has suggested that individual body size can strongly affect the allocation of resources to reproduction and away from other traits such as survival. In many insects, adults eclose with a proportion of their potential lifetime egg production that is already mature (the ovigeny index). We establish for the solitary parasitoid wasp Aphaereta genevensis that the ovigeny index decreases with adult body size, despite both initial egg load and potential lifetime fecundity increasing with body size. This outcome is predicted by adaptive models and is the first unequivocal intraspecific demonstration. Evidence suggests that a high ovigeny index carries a cost of reduced longevity in insects. Our results therefore contribute to the emerging evidence that small body size can favour a developmental shift in juveniles that favours early reproduction, but which has adverse late-life consequences. These findings are likely to have important implications for developmental biologists and population biologists

Year: 2006
DOI identifier: 10.1098/rspb.2005.3416
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