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Keywords:

  • complex life cycles;
  • evolutionary physiology;
  • heat stress;
  • insects;
  • life stages;
  • mosquitoes;
  • thermotolerance

Abstract

Because mortality accumulates with age, Fisher proposed that the strength of selection acting on survival should increase from birth up to the age of first reproduction. Hamilton later theorized that the strength of selection acting on survival should not change from birth to age at first reproduction. As organisms in nature do not live in uniform environments but, rather, experience periodic stress, we hypothesized that resistance to environmental stress should increase (Fisher) or remain constant (Hamilton) from birth to age at first reproduction. Using the pitcher-plant mosquito, Wyeomyia smithii, we imposed heat stress by simulating the passage of a warm-weather front at different preadult and adult stages. Contrary to either Fisher or Hamilton, stress tolerance declined from embryos to larvae to pupae to adults. Consequently, reproductive value appears to have been of little consequence in the evolution of stage-specific tolerance of heat stress in W. smithii.