, Volume 138, Issue 4, pp 640-647
Date: 09 Jan 2004

Optimal patch residence time in egg parasitoids: innate versus learned estimate of patch quality

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Charnov’s marginal value theorem predicts that female parasitoids should exploit patches of their hosts until their instantaneous rate of fitness gain reaches a marginal value. The consequences of this are that: (1) better patches should be exploited for a longer time; (2) as travel time between patches increases, so does the patch residence time; and (3) all exploited patches should be reduced to the same level of profitability. Patch residence time was measured in an egg parasitoid Anaphes victus (Hymenoptera: Mymaridae) when patch quality and travel time, approximated here as an increased delay between emergence and patch exploitation, varied. As predicted, females stayed longer when patch quality and travel time increased. However, the marginal value of fitness gain when females left the patch increased with patch quality and decreased with travel time. A. victus females appear to base their patch quality estimate on the first patch encountered rather than on a fixed innate estimate, as was shown for another egg parasitoid Trichogramma brassicae. Such a strategy could be optimal when inter-generational variability in patch quality is high and within-generational variability is low.