, Volume 157, Issue 1, pp 69–82

Fitness consequences of host use in the field: temporal variation in performance and a life history tradeoff in the moth Rothschildia lebeau (Saturniidae)

Plant-Animal Interactions - Original Paper


That fitness varies as a function of using different hosts is a basic premise of theory addressing the ecology and evolution of oviposition behavior and host selection. Few data exist demonstrating: (1) the effects of different hosts on fitness in the field, and (2) how these effects vary spatially or temporally. Cohorts of caterpillars were followed from hatching to adulthood to test the hypotheses that: (1) hosts have significant effects on herbivore performance in nature, and (2) host “quality” for performance varies predictably (i.e., the rank order is consistent) across herbivore generations. In total, the fates of >2,000 caterpillars were followed on 238 individual host trees. Host species had significant effects on most, but not all, measured components of caterpillar performance in the field. Variation among generations was mainly quantitative rather than qualitative, with few changes in the rank order of hosts in their effects on performance. There was also a strong seasonal effect on performance such that caterpillar growth and survival were higher in the early wet season compared to the late wet season. Using estimates derived from these data, correlations among larval growth rate, larval survival, total development time, and final adult size were examined at the level of host plant species. Across generations, larval survival was consistently poor, development time was long, but final adult size attained was large on the host Spondias mombin. The converse was true for the host Exostema mexicanum. Relative performance on the host Casearia nitida was variable between the other two hosts. Overall, the data suggest that host use involves a predictable tradeoff between larval survival and final adult size, but argue that which is the “better” host from the female perspective will depend on the fitness consequences of producing a few, relatively large offspring versus producing more, relatively small offspring.


Family effects Herbivore Host plant Offspring survival Oviposition 

Supplementary material

442_2008_1059_MOESM1_ESM.doc (83 kb)
Online supplementary materials (DOC 83 kb)

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA

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