Individual Variation in Trophic Egg Production: Evidence for Maternal Manipulation in Response to Resource and Competition Levels


Lisa Filippi, Department of Biology, Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY 11549, USA.


Females of the subsocial shield bug Parastrachia japonensis (Heteroptera: Parastrachiidae) incorporate trophic eggs (nutritive eggs) into their egg mass. Considerable variation occurs among females in trophic egg number and the proportion of an egg mass that is composed of trophic eggs. Because trophic eggs are essential to the development and survival of young, this variation could significantly impact female fitness. We tested the hypothesis that trophic egg abundance is induced by maternal phenotype (weight, body size) and resource exposure. We predicted that resource limitations would cause females to produce fewer fertile eggs and more trophic eggs and that larger and heavier females would produce more of each egg type. Females ovipositing early in the season are exposed to different resource conditions than those that oviposit late. Thus, we compared egg production patterns between these two groups and several other factors related to nesting. No correlation was seen between body size and trophic egg abundance, or, indeed, egg production, overall; however, heavier females produced heavier egg masses. Counter to our prediction, late females, which had greater access to food, produced significantly more total eggs, fewer fertile eggs, and more trophic eggs than early females. A binomial generalized linear model analysis indicated that the factors most correlated with the percentage of an egg mass destined to become trophic eggs were resource abundance, resulting from early or late oviposition, and distance of the nest from the host tree, with closer females producing more trophic eggs. The findings support our hypothesis that resource availability and, to a lesser extent, maternal phenotype affect trophic egg abundance.