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Seasonal plasticity in life history traits: growth and development in Polygonia c-album (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae)

Biological journal of the Linnean Society 1992 v.47 no.3 pp. 301-323
Nymphalidae, butterflies, diapause, larvae, morphs, multivoltine habit, photoperiod, plastics, protandry, temperature, univoltine habit
The potentially multivoltine comma butterfly, Polygonia c-album L., hibernates in the adult stage. The adult seasonal morph is demonstrated to be a good indicator of whether an individual has entered reproductive diapause or is developing directly to sexual maturation. This fact, and the assumption that a short development time is not equally important to all categories of individuals, was used to test predictions on variation in life-history traits among categories (morphs and sexes) and environments (temperature and photoperiod) at the level of individuals and to some extent families and populations (the univoltine Stockholm population and the partially bivoltine Oxford population). Individuals developing to adults in a short time were expected to be smaller and lighter as a result of a basic trade-off between the two traits. Development times varied in accordance with predictions, but in most cases this was due to plastic growth and development in both the larval and pupal stages rather than through variation in size or weight, i.e. size was a highly canalized trait. This suggests a relationship between plasticity and canalization and a strong potential for plasticity to shield life-history traits from selection. Individuals regulated development times also within developmental pathways, in response to photoperiods indicating the progression of the season. These and other results suggest that development times are not normally minimized in temperate butterflies unless this is enforced by direct development and protandry. There is thus scope for a high degree of adaptive plasticity in growth- and developmental rates which may devalue the basic trade-offs assumed by life-history theory and account for inconsistencies with its predictions.