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Contrasted breeding strategies in four sympatric sibling insect species: when a proovigenic and capital breeder copes with a stochastic environment

Abstract : 1. The evolution of strategies of resource acquisition and allocation is often considered to be closely dependent on the degree of environmental variability. Within this framework, female insects that experience stochastic fluctuations in the availability of their egg-laying sites in time or space can be expected to be fully synovigenic (i.e. they start maturing eggs after a delay once reaching adulthood), which allows them to tailor their reproductive investment to variations in the resource. Proovigenic females (that have most of their eggs already mature at the onset of their adult life, which corresponds to a capital breeding strategy), on the contrary, should have an advantage when the availability of the egg-laying sites is predictable. There is, however, a dearth of empirical studies testing these predictions. 2. Here, we tested the hypothesis that four phytophagous insect species of the genus Curculio, which coexist on a strongly fluctuating resource that they exploit for egg-laying purposes, would all be synovigenic as strict proovigeny should be counterselected. The resource consisted of the acorns of oak trees Quercus spp. We conducted field surveys to determine the date of adult emergence in each weevil species and the ability of newly emerged females to produce eggs. We also analysed the stable isotope profile of wild-caught females as a proxy for their feeding activity. Finally, we tested females under laboratory conditions for their ability to produce mature eggs when not fed and investigated whether dietary intake influenced their longevity. 3. Taken together, our results show that, contrary to the usual predictions, the four weevil species that were all exposed to a markedly fluctuating environment exhibited sharply contrasting strategies of resource acquisition and allocation: three species were synovigenic, while the fourth was proovigenic. Unexpectedly, therefore, our findings show that a strict capital breeding species might not always be counterselected in a temporally stochastic environment. They further suggest that fluctuations in the environment should not promote a sole, optimal strategy of energy acquisition and allocation to reproduction but instead should favour their diversification.
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Submitted on : Friday, April 20, 2012 - 9:29:53 PM
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Pierre-François Pelisson, Marie-Claude Bel-Venner, Benjamin Rey, Lorraine Burgevin, François Martineau, et al.. Contrasted breeding strategies in four sympatric sibling insect species: when a proovigenic and capital breeder copes with a stochastic environment. Functional Ecology, Wiley, 2012, 26 (1), pp.198-206. ⟨10.1111/j.1365-2435.2011.01925.x⟩. ⟨hal-00690024⟩



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