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Flight dimorphism is related to survival, reproduction and mating success in the leaf beetle Oreina cacaliae

Ecological entomology 2017 v.42 no.3 pp. 355-363
Chrysomelidae, autumn, dimorphism, fecundity, females, flight, host plants, life history, males, mark-recapture studies, mortality, overwintering, reproductive performance, reproductive success, risk, spring
1. Alternative life histories may be maintained in populations due to variation in the costs and benefits of the underlying strategies. In this study, potential costs of dispersal by flight were investigated as an alternative life‐history strategy in the mountain‐living chrysomelid beetle Oreina cacaliae. 2. In this species, previous mark–recapture studies showed a dispersal dimorphism in both males and females. While a fraction of the population engages in flight in autumn and spring (in the following referred to as ‘flyers’), the other part does not fly (non‐flyers). Flyers emerge earlier than non‐flyers and feed on a spring host plant before the emergence of the main host plant. 3. In this study, the overwintering and dispersal locations were recorded over 7 years in the field, flyers from the spring host plant were collected, and morphology and lifetime reproductive output and survival of collected flyers and non‐flyers were compared. 4. A potential trade‐off between flight and life‐history traits was observed: flyers were smaller in size, lighter in body mass, had a lower lifetime fecundity and a higher mortality. 5. Mating experiments of field‐caught beetles in the laboratory showed that larger beetles had a higher (multiple) mating success, but there was no evidence for size‐assortative mating. It is hypothesized that one reason for small beetles to disperse by flight might be to escape competition for mates with larger non‐flyers. 6. The overwhelming quantity of beetles found on the spring host every year reveals that the flying strategy is successful, despite the costs and risks.