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Keywords:

  • Life history;
  • reproduction;
  • fat content;
  • Asobara tabida;
  • plasticity;
  • allocation trade-off

Abstract

Life history variation can be genetically based, or it may be due to environmental effects on the phenotype. In this paper we examine life history variation in relation to differences in habitat in the parasitoid Asobara tabida. Differences in the spatial distribution of host patches, the length of the season, host suitability, and competition between parasitoids all contribute to the selection for differences in life history between strains from northern and southern Europe.

Strains were compared with respect to the allocation between reproduction and survival in experimental environments that varied with regard to the availability of food or to the number of hosts offered per day. Upon emergence parasitoids originating from southern Europe have higher egg loads and smaller fat reserves than parasitoids originating from northern Europe. Parasitoids from both southern and northern Europe show plasticity in allocation: food shortage causes a decrease in egg production, and rich breeding opportunities an increase in egg production. This plasticity is greater in the northern strain. Fat reserves play a central role in the physiology of this allocation. Fat can be used for both reproduction and survival. There is no oosorption, so once fat is allocated to reproduction it can no longer be used for survival. Differences in plasticity in allocation can therefore be considered as differences in the timing of egg production.