Correlated evolution of colour pattern and body size in polymorphic pygmy grasshoppers, Tetrix undulata


Jonas Ahnesjö, Department of Biology and Environmental Science, Kalmar University, SE-391 82 Kalmar, Sweden. Tel.: +46 (0)480 44 73 00; fax: +46 (0)480 44 73 05; e-mail:


Theory posits that selection on functionally interrelated characters will promote physical and genetic integration resulting in evolution of favourable trait-value combinations. The pygmy grasshopper Tetrix undulata (Orthoptera: Tetrigidae) displays a genetically encoded polymorphism for colour pattern. Colour morphs differ in several traits, including behaviours, thermal biology and body size. To examine if these size differences may reflect phenotypic plasticity of growth and development in response to temperature we used a split brood-design and reared hatchlings from mothers belonging to different morphs in different thermal environments (warm or cold) until maturity. We found that time to maturity was longer in the cold compared with the warm treatment. In the warm (but not in the cold) treatment time to maturity also varied among individuals born to mothers belonging to different colour morphs. Although low temperature and long development time are normally accompanied by increased body size in ectotherms, our results revealed no difference in size at maturity between individuals reared in the two temperature treatments. There was also an increase (not a decrease) in adult body size with shortened time to maturity across families within each treatment. Taken together, this suggests that body size is canalized against environmental perturbations, and that early maturation does not necessarily trade off against a size-mediated decrease in fecundity. Heritability of body size was moderate in magnitude. Moreover, body size at maturity varied among individuals belonging to different morphs and was influenced also by maternal colour morph, suggesting that a genetic correlation exists between colour pattern and body size. These findings suggest that different characters have evolved in concert and that the various colour morphs represent different evolutionary strategies, i.e., alternative peaks in a multi-modal adaptive landscape.