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Metamorphosis is induced by food absence rather than a critical weight in the solitary bee, Osmia lignaria

Bryan R. Helm, Joseph P. Rinehart, George D. Yocum, Kendra J. Greenlee, Julia H. Bowsher
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 2017 v.114 no.41 pp. 10924-10929
Osmia lignaria, adults, body size, economic valuation, insect larvae, juvenile hormones, juveniles, phenotype, phenotypic variation, pollinators, pupation, solitary bees, starvation
Body size is an important phenotypic trait that correlates with performance and fitness. For determinate growing insects, body size variation is determined by growth rate and the mechanisms that stop growth at the end of juvenile growth. Endocrine mechanisms regulate growth cessation, and their relative timing along development shapes phenotypic variation in body size and development time. Larval insects are generally hypothesized to initiate metamorphosis once they attain a critical weight. However, the mechanisms underlying the critical weight have not been resolved even for well-studied insect species. More importantly, critical weights may or may not be generalizable across species. In this study, we characterized the developmental aspects of size regulation in the solitary bee, Osmia lignaria. We demonstrate that starvation cues metamorphosis in O. lignaria and that a critical weight does not exist in this species. Larvae initiated pupation <24 h after food was absent. However, even larvae fed ad libitum eventually underwent metamorphosis, suggesting that some secondary mechanism regulates metamorphosis when provisions are not completely consumed. We show that metamorphosis could be induced by precocene treatment in the presence of food, which suggests that this decision is regulated through juvenile hormone signaling. Removing food at different larval masses produced a 10-fold difference in mass between smallest and largest adults. We discuss the implications of body size variation for insect species that are provided with a fixed quantity of provisions, including many bees which have economic value as pollinators.