, Volume 52, Issue 4, pp 296-302

Effects of size and nuptial gifts on butterfly reproduction: can females compensate for a smaller size through male-derived nutrients?

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Abstract.

In butterflies and other insects, fecundity generally increases with female adult weight. Hence, most butterflies are essentially "capital breeders", because nutrients acquired during the larval stage are stored and subsequently used for egg production during the adult stage. However, in some species, males transfer a large nutritious ejaculate to the female at mating. These females can partly be characterized as "income breeders", and female mass can potentially be decoupled from fecundity to some extent. In the gift-giving green-veined white butterfly Pieris napi, it has been shown that female fecundity and longevity increase with number of matings and also that females mature at smaller size under poor food conditions compared to males. So it has been suggested that females can compensate for their smaller size through nuptial feeding. Here we test this hypothesis in P. napi by assessing female fecundity and longevity in relation to female mass and polyandry. The results showed no support for the hypothesis. Smaller females were not capable of increasing their mating rate to compensate for a low weight at eclosion. Instead, larger females remated sooner. Also, smaller females suffered from both a reduced daily and total fecundity compared to larger females and this decrease in fecundity was independent of female mating status, i.e. females allowed to mate only once and multiply mated females suffered to the same extent from their smaller size.

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