, Volume 88, Issue 3, pp 422-429

Starvation resistance of gypsy moth, Lymantria dispar (L.) (Lepidoptera: Lymantriidae): tradeoffs among growth, body size, and survival

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Summary

Survival and body composition of starving gypsy moth larvae initially reared on aspen foliage or artificial diet differeing in nitrogen (N) and carbohydrate concentration were examined under laboratory conditions. Diet nitrogen concentration strongly affected starvation resistance and body composition, but diet carbohydrate content had no effects on these. Within any single diet treatment, greater body mass afforded greater resistance to starvation. However, starving larvae reared on 1.5% N diet survived nearly three days longer than larvae reared on 3.5% N diet. Larvae reared on artificial diet survived longer than larvae reared on aspen. Differences in survival of larvae reared on artificial diet with low and high nitrogen concentrations could not be attributed to variation in respiration rates, but were associated with differences in body composition. Although percentage lipid in larvae was unaffected by diet nitrogen concentration, larvae reared on 1.5% N diet had a higher percentage carbohydrate and lower percentage protein in their bodies prior to starvation than larvae reared on 3.5% N diet. Hence, larger energy reserves of larvae reared on low nitrogen diet may have contributed to their greater starvation resistance. Whereas survival under food stress was lower for larvae reared on high N diets, growth rates and pupal weights were higher, suggesting a tradeoff between rapid growth and survival. Larger body size does not necessarily reflect larger energy reserves, and, in fact, larger body size accured via greater protein accumulation may be at the expense of energy reserves. Large, fast-growing larvae may be more fit when food is abundant, but this advantage may be severely diminished under food stress. The potential ecological and evolutionary implications of a growth/survival tradeoff are discussed.