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The developmental race between maturing host plants and their butterfly herbivore – the influence of phenological matching and temperature
- Posledovich, Diana, Toftegaard, Tenna, Wiklund, Christer, Ehrlén, Johan, Gotthard, Karl, Newman, Jonathan
- The journal of animal ecology 2015 v.84 no.6 pp. 1690-1699
- Brassicaceae, butterflies, global warming, host plants, larvae, oviposition, phytophagous insects, plant development, plant-insect relations, probability, spring, temperature, temporal variation
- Interactions between herbivorous insects and their host plants that are limited in time are widespread. Therefore, many insect–plant interactions result in a developmental race, where herbivores need to complete their development before plants become unsuitable, while plants strive to minimize damage from herbivores by outgrowing them. When spring phenologies of interacting species change asymmetrically in response to climate warming, there will be a change in the developmental state of host plants at the time of insect herbivore emergence. In combination with altered temperatures during the subsequent developmental period, this is likely to affect interaction strength as well as fitness of interacting species. Here, we experimentally explore whether the combined effect of phenological matching and thermal conditions influence the outcome of an insect–host interaction. We manipulated both developmental stages of the host plants at the start of the interaction and temperature during the subsequent developmental period in a model system of a herbivorous butterfly, Anthocharis cardamines, and five of its Brassicaceae host plant species. Larval performance characteristics were favoured by earlier stages of host plants at oviposition as well as by higher developmental temperatures on most of the host species. The probability of a larva needing a second host plant covered the full range from no influence of either phenological matching or temperature to strong effects of both factors, and complex interactions between them. The probability of a plant outgrowing a larva was dependent only on the species identity. This study demonstrates that climatic variation can influence the outcome of consumer–resource interactions in multiple ways and that its effects differ among host plant species. Therefore, climate warming is likely to change the temporal match between larval and plant development in some plant species, but not in the others. This is likely to have important implications for host plant use and possibly influence competitive relationships.