Exaptation and the evolution of dealation in insects

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Abstract

This paper presents the results of an empirical test of the hypothesis that the evolution of dealation, or self-inflicted removal of wings, is favored in some insect species by the pre-existence of a physiological response of enhanced reproduction following dealation. Two Orthopteran species that do not naturally shed their wings are studied, Teleogryllus oceanicus and Gryllus firmus. The hypothesis that enhanced reproduction following dealation is accompanied by histolysis of the wing muscles is also examined. Dealation increases the rate of egg production in both species. However, total fecundity is not increased by dealation. Wing muscle histolysis is increased by dealation and there is a significant correlation between the degree of histolysis and cumulative egg production to days 4 and 7. It is suggested that Orthoptera are “preadapted” for the evolution of dealation and that ecological factors rather than physiological are most important in determining its appearance in various species.

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