, Volume 97, Issue 8, pp 775–780 | Cite as

Variation of foraging rate and wing loading, but not resting metabolic rate scaling, of insect pollinators

  • John S. TerblancheEmail author
  • Bruce Anderson
Short Communication


Morphological, physiological and behavioural variation with body size (i.e. scaling) may affect costs of living in a particular environment for insects and, ultimately, pollination or foraging success. However, few studies have directly assessed the scaling of these traits at the species level. Using two similar-sized pollinator species (the hawkmoth Macroglossum trochilus and the fly Moegistorhynchus longirostrus), we compare intraspecific scaling relationships of resting metabolic rate (RMR), foraging rate (FR) and wing loading (WL) to address this paucity of data. Scaling of RMR was similar for both taxa although the intercepts for the relationships differed. However, these two species showed variation in WL scaling relationships and fundamentally different FR scaling. For M. longirostrus, FR scaling was positive but non-significantly related to body mass while for M. trochilus FR scaling was negative. This suggests that variation in FR and WL, but not RMR scaling, among these flies and hawkmoths may impose significant energetic costs which could affect animal–plant interactions in the wild.


Allometry Fynbos Respirometry 



Ethan Newman and Steven Chown provided valuable support during the project. We are grateful for the comments of several anonymous referees which helped improve this manuscript. Funding was provided by a South African National Research Foundation grant BS2008090800006 to JST.


  1. Anderson B, Alexandersson R, Johnson SD (2010) Evolution and coexistence of pollination ecotypes in an African Gladiolus (Iridaceae). Evolution 64:960–972CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Bartholomew GA, Casey TM (1978) Oxygen consumption of moths during rest, pre-flight warm-up, and flight in relation to body size and wing morphology. J Exp Biol 76:11–25Google Scholar
  3. Borrell BJ (2007) Scaling of nectar foraging in orchid bees. Am Nat 169:569–580CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Clarke A, Gaston KJ (2006) Climate, energy and diversity. Proc R Soc Lond B 273:2257–2266CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Darveau C-A, Hochachka PW, Welch KC, Roubik DW, Suarez RK (2005) Allometric scaling of flight energetics in Panamanian orchid bees: a comparative phylogenetic approach. J Exp Biol 208:3581–3591CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Dudley R (2000) The Biomechanics of Insect Flight: Form, Function, Evolution. Princeton University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  7. Ellington CP, Machin KE, Casey TM (1990) Oxygen consumption of bumblebees in forward flight. Nature 347:472–473CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Glazier DS (2005) Beyond the ‘3/4-power law’: variation in the intra- and interspecific scaling of metabolic rate in animals. Biol Rev 80:1–52CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Goldblatt P, Manning JC (2006) Radiation of pollination systems in the iridaceae of sub-Saharan Africa. Ann Bot 97:317–344CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. McArdle BH (1988) The structural relationship: regression in biology. Can J Zool 66:2329–2339CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Niven JE, Scharlemann JPW (2005) Do insect metabolic rates at rest and during flight scale with body mass? Biol Lett 1:346–349CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Pauw A, Stofberg J, Waterman RJ (2009) Flies and flowers in Darwin's Race. Evolution 63:268–279CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Ribak G, Pitts ML, Wilkinson GS, Swallow JG (2009) Wing shape, wing size, and sexual dimorphism in eye-span in stalk eyed flies (Diopsidae). Biol J Linn Soc 98:860–871CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Terblanche JS, Chown SL (2007) The effects of temperature, body mass and feeding on metabolic rate in the tsetse fly Glossina morsitans centralis. Physiol Entomol 32:175–180CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Terblanche JS, Klok CJ, Marais E, Chown SL (2004) Metabolic rate in the whip-spider, Damon annulatipes (Arachnida: Amblypygi). J Insect Physiol 50:637–645CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Van Loon JJA, Casas J, Pincebourde S (2005) Nutritional ecology of plant-insect interactions: persistent handicaps and the need for innovative approaches. Oikos 108:194–201CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Witting L (1995) The body mass allometries as evolutionarily determined by the foraging of mobile organisms. J Theor Biol 177:129–137CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Conservation Ecology and EntomologyStellenbosch UniversityMatielandSouth Africa
  2. 2.Botany and Zoology DepartmentStellenbosch UniversityMatielandSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations