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Test of a developmental trade-off in a polyphenic butterfly: direct development favours reproductive output

Karlsson, Bengt, Stjernholm, Fredrik, Wiklund, Christer
Functional ecology 2008 v.22 no.1 pp. 121-126
adults, butterflies, early development, eclosion, eggs, fecundity, females, hibernation, life history, longevity, morphs, overwintering, photoperiod, prediction, reproductive performance, resource allocation, summer, temperature
1. Evolutionary theory predicts that resource allocation decisions taken during development are adjusted to an organism's life-history. These decisions may have irreversible effects on body design and strong fitness consequences. Holometabolous insects that have a long expected life span typically postpone reproduction, and so are expected to allocate resources for somatic maintenance prior to investing in reproduction. In contrast, insects that have a short expected life span are expected to allocate relatively less to soma and more to reproduction. In support of this theory, an earlier investigation of resources allocated to soma vs. reproductive reserves in the comma butterfly, Polygonia c-album, revealed that short-lived females indeed allocate more resources to reproductive reserves as compared to longer lived females that hibernate before reproduction suggesting that short-lived females should have higher fecundity. 2. Here we test this prediction, using the comma butterfly as our study organism. Depending on daylength and temperature this butterfly produces one of two morphs: (i) a light summer morph that reproduces directly after adult eclosion and has a short expected life span of a couple of weeks; or (ii) a darker winter morph that normally lives for 8-9 months before the onset of reproduction. Our test is based on experimental manipulation that allowed us to induce reproduction without prior hibernation in winter morph comma butterflies, and comparing lifetime fecundity among three groups: (i) directly reproducing summer morph commas; (ii) directly reproducing winter morph commas; and (iii) winter morph commas reproducing after overwintering. This protocol allowed us to tease apart trade-offs during development and the hibernation period. 3. The results showed that the short-lived summer morph had a substantially higher fecundity (total number of eggs = 586 ± 19, mean ± SE) than the winter morph females manipulated to reproduce without hibernation (total number of eggs = 334 ± 42). We argue that this is a consequence of a resource allocation trade-off during early development observed in this species; females with a short expected life as adults allocate relatively more of their resources to reproductive parts and thereby reach a higher reproductive output compared to females predisposed for a long adult life. 4. There was no significant difference in lifetime fecundity between winter morph females that did, or did not, hibernate before reproduction. This suggests that the cost of hibernation per se is small and hence corroborates our conclusion that the life-history implemented trade-off made during early development underlies the lower reproductive output of the winter morph butterflies.