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Nutritional stress reduces flight performance and exploratory behavior in a butterfly

Reim, Elisabeth, Eichhorn, Danny, Roy, Jan D., Steinhoff, Philip O. M., Fischer, Klaus
Insect science 2019 v.26 no.5 pp. 897-910
adults, butterflies, climate change, flight, habitats, herbivores, intensive farming, larvae, malnutrition, nutrition, personality
Anthropogenic global change, including agricultural intensification and climate change, poses a substantial challenge to many herbivores due to a reduced availability of feeding resources. The concomitant food stress is expected to detrimentally affect performance, amongst others in dispersal‐related traits. Thus, while dispersal is of utmost importance to escape from deteriorating habitat conditions, such conditions may negatively feedback on the ability to do so. Therefore, we here investigate the impact of larval and adult food stress on traits related to dispersal ability, including morphology, physiology, flight performance, and exploratory behavior, in a butterfly. We show that inadequate nutrition during development and in the adult stage diminishes flight performance, despite some re‐allocation of somatic resources. Detrimental effects of food stress on flight performance were mainly caused by reductions in body mass and storage reserves. Similar results were found for exploratory behavior. Furthermore, exploratory behavior was found to be (moderately) repeatable at the individual level, which might indicate the existence of a personality trait. This notion is further supported by the fact that flight performance and exploratory behavior were positively correlated, potentially suggesting the existence of a dispersal syndrome. In summary, our findings may have important implications for dispersal in natural environments, as the conditions requiring dispersal the most impair flight ability and thereby likely dispersal rates.