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Adaptive variation in growth rate: life history costs and consequences in the speckled wood butterfly,Pararge aegeria


An important assumption made in most lifehistory theory is that there is a trade-off between age and size at reproduction. This trade-off may, however, disappear if growth rate varies adaptively. The fact that individuals do not always grow at the maximum rate can only be understood if high growth rates carry a cost. This study investigates the presence and nature of such costs inPararge aegeria. Five females from two populations with known differences in life history (south Sweden and Maderia) were allowed to oviposit in the laboratory and their offspring were reared in environmental chambers under conditions leading to direct development. We measured several aspects of life history, including development times, pupal and adult weights, growth rate, female fecundity, longevity and larval starvation endurance. In both populations there seemed to be genetic variation in growth rate. There was no evidence for a trade-off between age and size at pupation. As predicted, larvae with high growth rates also lost weight at a relatively higher rate during starvation. High weight-loss rates were furthermore associated with a lower probability of surviving when food became available again. This is apparently the first physiological trade-off with growth rate that has been experimentally demonstrated. In both populations there were significant differences in growth rate between the sexes, but the populations differed in which sex was growing at the highest rate. In Sweden males had higher growth rates than females, whereas the reverse was true for Madeira. These patterns most likely reflect differences in selection for protandry, in turn caused by differences in seasonality between Sweden and Madeira. Together with the finding that males had shorter average longevity than females in the Swedish, but not in the Maderiran, population, this indicates that a lower adult quality also may be a cost of high growth rate. We argue that for the understanding of life history variation it is necessary to consider not only the two dimensions of age and size, but also to take into full account the triangular nature of the relationship between size, time and growth rate.

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Correspondence to Karl Gotthard.

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Gotthard, K., Nylin, S. & Wiklund, C. Adaptive variation in growth rate: life history costs and consequences in the speckled wood butterfly,Pararge aegeria . Oecologia 99, 281–289 (1994).

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Key words

  • Physiological trade-off
  • Size and age at maturity
  • Starvation
  • Longevity
  • Satyrinae