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Keywords:

  • development time;
  • insect galls;
  • intraspecific competition;
  • oviposition sites;
  • resource limitation

Abstract

The response of a host plant to gall-inducing insects varies both among and within plants, so that different levels of resources are available to the insects. The weevil Collabismus clitellae Boheman induces galls on the shoots of Solanum lycocarpum St Hil. in south-east Brazil. Galls are found on a range of parts within an individual plant and are more abundant on smaller plants. In the present study, the host plant response as a possible influence on the performance of C. clitellae both between and within plants was tested. Gall abortion increased with plant height. Within plants, gall size was positively related to shoot diameter and number of chambers within the gall. The increase in gall larval density (number of individuals per gall volume unit) resulted in smaller adults and reduced developmental rates, probably because of resource limitation within the gall. The number of eggs laid by females increased with shoot diameter. Females laid more eggs on thicker shoots, where there are fewer chances to form galls with high larval density. However, this relationship was weak and a large variation was found for adult sizes. The availability of high quality sites is limited to smaller plants and thicker shoots located on the basal region of the plant. The phenotypic plasticity of this insect species in adult size and development time allows individuals growing on low quality sites to reach maturity, thus enhancing exploitation of the host plant.