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Sex‐specific phenotypic plasticity in response to the trade‐off between developmental time and body size supports the dimorphic niche hypothesis

Rohde, Katja, Dreher, Elena, Hochkirch, Axel
Biological journal of the Linnean Society 2015 v.115 no.1 pp. 48-57
Chorthippus, adults, body size, dimorphism, eggs, evolution, invertebrates, males, mortality, niches, phenotypic plasticity, population density, protandry, rearing, temperature, virgin females
Female‐biased sexual size dimorphism (SSD) is widespread in many invertebrate taxa. One hypothesis for the evolution of SSD is the dimorphic niche hypothesis, which states that SSD evolved in response to the different sexual reproductive roles. While females benefit from a larger body size by producing more or larger eggs, males benefit from a faster development, which allows them to fertilize virgin females (protandry). To test this hypothesis, we studied the influence of temperature and intraspecific density on the development of Chorthippus montanus. We reared them in monosexual groups under different conditions and measured adult body size, wing length, nymphal mortality, and development time. The present study revealed an inverse temperature–size relationship: body size increased with increasing temperature in both sexes. Furthermore, we found intersexual differences in the phenotypic response to population density, supporting the dimorphic niches hypothesis. At a lower temperature, female development time increased and male body size decreased with increasing density. Because there was no food limitation, we conclude that interference competition hampered development. By contrast to expectations, mortality decreased with increasing density, suggesting that interference did not negatively affect survival. The present study shows that sex‐specific niche optima may be a major trigger of sexual dimorphisms.