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Abstract

According to the semelparity hypothesis, iteroparous insects should provide either no maternal care or less care than related semelparous species. We present field data on reproductive output and maternal care in the Southeast Asian treehopper Pyrgauchenia tristaniopsis (Mt. Kinabalu, Borneo) relevant to a preliminary assessment of the hypothesis. In a mark-recapture experiment, more females than expected under semelparity were found to have oviposited a second clutch (37%). Female longevity was a inline image of 75 d. Both these estimates were highly conservative. Oviposition was successive resulting in a inline image of 46 eggs per clutch. Females provided care for eggs only, occasionally scraping their legs along the sides of the clutch apparently attempting to deter Brachygrammatella sp. egg parasitoids (Trichogrammatidae). Females straddled their clutch for a inline image of 27 d, i.e. until 8 d after the beginning of first instar hatching. First instars hatched successively over a period of 11 d. When a female deserted her clutch, it contained about 37% yet unhatched eggs. Egg-guarding effectively reduced egg mortality: the earlier a female was experimentally removed from her clutch the higher the egg mortality. Displacement experiments demonstrated that egg-guarding is a behaviour actively maintained despite disturbances and specifically directed towards the egg clutch but not to the feeding site. We interpret our findings as being in accordance with the weaker claim of the semelparity hypothesis, i.e. the iteroparous P. tristaniopsis provided less maternal care than semelparous membracid species. Continued female feeding is discussed as a mechanism to display some level of care despite iteroparity.