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The effects of food shortage during larval development on adult body size, body mass, physiology and developmental time in a tropical damselfly

Jiménez-Cortés, J. Guillermo, Serrano-Meneses, Martín Alejandro, Córdoba-Aguilar, Alex
Journal of insect physiology 2012 v.58 no.3 pp. 318-326
adults, animals, body size, diet, egg production, food availability, food shortages, foods, insects, instars, larvae, larval development, life history, males, metamorphosis, monophenol monooxygenase, pathogens
Few studies have looked jointly at the effects of larval stressors on life history and physiology across metamorphosis, especially in tropical insects. Here we investigated how the variation of food availability during the larval stage of the tropical and territorial American rubyspot damselfly (Hetaerina americana) affects adult body size and body mass, and two physiological indicators of condition – phenoloxidase activity (an indicator of immune ability) and protein concentration. We also investigated whether larval developmental time is prolonged when food is scarce, an expected situation for tropical species whose larval time is less constrained, compared to temperate species. Second instar larvae were collected from their natural environments and reared in one of two diet regimes: (i) “rich” provided with five Artemiasalina prey every day, and (ii) “poor” provided with two A. salina prey every day. In order to compare how distinct our treatments were from natural conditions, a second set of last-instar larvae were also collected and allowed to emerge. Only body size and phenoloxidase increased in the rich regime, possibly to prioritize investment on sexually selected traits (which increase mating opportunities), and immune ability, given pathogen pressure. The sexes did not differ in body size in relation to food regimes but they did differ in body mass and protein concentration; this can be explained on the basis of the energetically demanding territorial activities by males (for the case of body mass), and female allocation to egg production (for the case of protein). Finally, animals delayed larval development when food was scarce, which is coherent for tropical environments. These findings provide key insights in the role of food availability in a tropical species.