, Volume 137, Issue 1, pp 85–89 | Cite as

Phenotypic plasticity and interpopulation differences in life history traits of Armadillidium vulgare (Isopoda:Oniscidae)

  • Mark HassallEmail author
  • Alvin Helden
  • Timothy Benton
Population Ecology


The hypothesis that the balance of trade-offs between survivorship, growth and reproductive allocation in the terrestrial isopod Armadillidium vulgare will change when resource input is increased has been investigated experimentally. When the quality of food available was increased, by adding a mixture of litter from herbaceous dicotyledonous plants to a background low-quality food of dead grasses, survivorship was found to be the most phenotypically plastic trait, increasing by 168%. Growth rates increased by 99% but reproductive allocation by only 21%. In the field, members of a population from a site with more high-quality food grew more than twice as fast as those from a site where less high-quality food was available. The population from the site with higher food availability, contrary to predictions from the laboratory study, did not survive as well as that from the site with less available high-quality food. This may be because the site that is more favourable for growth has a more stressful physical environment due to much bigger temperature fluctuations, which are known to be an important cause of mortality in this species. When individuals from both populations were reared under controlled laboratory conditions, both the parental and F1 generations from the poor growth environment survived better than those from the good growth habitat. However, even when given an excess of high-quality food those from the poor growth environment continued to grow more slowly and had a lower reproductive allocation than those from the site with higher food availability. We conclude that microevolutionary changes may have occurred in the balance of resource allocation between survivorship, growth and reproductive allocation, to favour higher survivorship during the longer prereproductive period at the site where growth to the threshold size for reproduction takes longer.


Life history strategy Trade-off Resource availability Food quality Microevolution 



We are very grateful to: the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and the Norfolk Wildlife Trust for permission to collect woodlice from Spurn Head and Weeting Heath respectively; Jenny Stevenson for assistance with collecting and processing field population samples; and David Oatway for help in analysing the population data. We would like to thank: Alastair Grant for discussing experimental design; Jane Helden, Rachel Lachowycz, Gareth Lee, Heidi Mahon, Ruth Maier and Jenny Stevenson for helping to collect woodlice; Matthew Shardlow, Rufous Kingston, Tim Riley and, in particular, Andrea Kelly for providing so much help with data collection and culture maintenance. We are very grateful to Mark Dangerfield for helpful comments on an earlier draft of the manuscript. The work was supported by NERC Grant GR3/8331 to Mark Hassall and Alastair Grant.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Conservation, School of Environmental SciencesUniversity of East AngliaNorwichEngland
  2. 2.Department of ERM, Faculty of AgricultureUniversity College DublinDublinIreland
  3. 3.Department of Biological and Molecular SciencesUniversity of StirlingStirlingUK

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