Metamorphosis offsets the link between larval stress, adult asymmetry and individual quality
*Correspondence author. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- 1It is poorly understood which traits translate larval stressors into adult fitness in animals where larval and adult stages are separated by metamorphosis. Although fluctuating asymmetry (FA) is often assumed to do so, especially in insects the relationship between larval stress, adult FA and individual quality is often absent. One suggested hypothesis for this is the higher mortality of low quality (hence more asymmetric) animals during metamorphosis (i.e. developmental selection hypothesis).
- 2Here we test this hypothesis and also propose and test an alternative hypothesis where metamorphosis is stressful but not lethal and increases FA of all animals up to a certain level (i.e. stressful metamorphosis hypothesis).
- 3We manipulated larval stress (food stress and pesticide stress) and measured FA before and after metamorphosis in the damselfly Coenagrion puella. Additionally, we assessed the relationship between FA and individual quality variables measured at metamorphosis (age, mass and two immune variables: phenoloxidase (PO) and haemocyte number).
- 4Before metamorphosis, FA reflected the combination of food and pesticide stress and was negatively related with mass and both immune variables after metamorphosis. These patterns were, however, offset after metamorphosis. Low mortality, not linked to FA during metamorphosis, indicates that developmental selection cannot explain this. Instead, the strong increase in FA up to equal levels across treatments during metamorphosis supports the stressful metamorphosis hypothesis.
- 5Taken together, the developmental stage in which FA is measured may critically determine the reliability of FA as an indicator of stress and of individual quality in insects.