, Volume 144, Issue 3, pp 353–361

Larval food limitation in butterflies: effects on adult resource allocation and fitness



Allocation of larval food resources affects adult morphology and fitness in holometabolous insects. Here we explore the effects on adult morphology and female fitness of larval semi-starvation in the butterfly Speyeria mormonia. Using a split-brood design, food intake was reduced by approximately half during the last half of the last larval instar. Body mass and forewing length of resulting adults were smaller than those of control animals. Feeding treatment significantly altered the allometric relationship between mass and wing length for females but not males, such that body mass increased more steeply with wing length in stressed insects as compared to control insects. This may result in changes in female flight performance and cost. With regard to adult life history traits, male feeding treatment or mating number had no effect on female fecundity or survival, in agreement with expectations for this species. Potential fecundity decreased with decreasing body mass and relative fat content, but there was no independent effect of larval feeding treatment. Realized fecundity decreased with decreasing adult survival, and was not affected by body mass or larval feeding treatment. Adult survival was lower in insects subjected to larval semi-starvation, with no effect of body mass. In contrast, previous laboratory studies on adult nectar restriction showed that adult survival was not affected by such stress, whereas fecundity was reduced in direct 11 proportion to the reduction of adult food. We thus see a direct impact of larval dietary restriction on survival, whereas fecundity is affected by adult dietary restriction, a pattern reminiscent of a survival/reproduction trade-off, but across a developmental boundary. The data, in combination with previous work, thus provide a picture of the intra-specific response of a suite of traits to ecological stress.


Fecundity Nymphalidae Stress Survival Trade-offs 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Conservation Biology, Department of Biological SciencesStanford UniversityStanfordUSA
  2. 2.Rocky Mountain Biological LaboratoryCrested ButteUSA
  3. 3.Department of Emergency MedicineUCSF FresnoFresnoUSA

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