Population Ecology

, Volume 54, Issue 3, pp 455–465 | Cite as

Factors promoting maternal trophic egg provisioning in non-eusocial animals

  • Suzuki NoriyukiEmail author
  • Kazutaka Kawatsu
  • Naoya Osawa
Original Article


The adaptive function of trophic egg-laying is generally regarded as extended parental investment to the offspring. However, the evolutionary factors promoting trophic egg-laying are still unclear, because the amount of maternal investment per offspring should be ideally equal between smaller offspring with trophic eggs and larger offspring without any additional investment. Several authors have suggested that trophic egg-laying should evolve only when egg size is constrained, but this hypothesis has not been evaluated. We investigated the evolutionary mechanisms of trophic egg-laying by two different approaches. First, we evaluated morphological constraints on egg size in two sibling ladybird species, Harmonia axyridis, which is known to produce trophic eggs, and H. yedoensis. Second, we theoretically predicted the optimal proportion of trophic eggs to total eggs and egg size in relation to environmental heterogeneity, predictability of environmental quality, and investment efficiency of trophic egg consumption. The intra- and interspecific morphological comparisons suggest that morphological constraints on the evolutionary determination of egg size are weak at best in the two ladybird species. Moreover, we theoretically showed that small egg size and trophic egg-laying are favoured in heterogeneous environments when mothers cannot adjust egg size plastically. We also showed that even a small reduction in investment efficiency makes a trophic egg strategy unlikely, despite relatively high environmental predictability. We conclude that trophic egg provisioning may be a flexible maternal adaptation to a highly heterogeneous environment rather than a response to a morphological constraint on egg size.


Egg size Environmental heterogeneity Harmonia Maternal investment Morphological constraint Phenotypic plasticity 



We thank T. Nishida and N. Baba for valuable discussions, Y. Harada for advice on mathematical analyses, S. Seiter for improving English version, and M. Tokeshi and J.-Y. Ide for comments on the manuscript. We are grateful to the staff at the Botanical Garden of Kyoto University for permission to collect ladybirds. This study was supported by a Research Fellowship for Young Scientists from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science to S. Noriyuki and K. Kawatsu, and a Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan; No. 20405047) to N. Osawa.


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Copyright information

© The Society of Population Ecology and Springer 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Suzuki Noriyuki
    • 1
    Email author
  • Kazutaka Kawatsu
    • 1
  • Naoya Osawa
    • 2
  1. 1.Laboratory of Insect Ecology, Graduate School of AgricultureKyoto UniversityKyotoJapan
  2. 2.Laboratory of Forest Ecology, Graduate School of AgricultureKyoto UniversityKyotoJapan

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