Factors affecting the evolution of development strategies in parasitoid wasps: the importance of functional constraints and incorporating complexity


  • Jeffrey A. Harvey

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Multitrophic Interactions, Netherlands Institute of Ecology, Centre for Terrestrial Ecology, PO Box 40, Boterhoeksestraat 48, 6666 ZG Heteren, The Netherlands
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*Correspondence: E-mail: j.harvey@nioo.knaw.nl


Parasitoid wasps have long been considered as model organisms for examining optimal resource allocation to different fitness functions, such as body size and development time. Unlike insect predators, which may need to consume many prey items to attain maturity, parasitoids generally rely on a limited amount of resources that are obtained from a single source (the host). This review discusses a range of ecophysiological constraints that affect host quality and concomitantly the evolution of development strategies in parasitoids. Two macroevolutionary differences in host usage strategies (idiobiosis, koinobiosis) are initially described. Over many years, particular attention has been paid in examining a range of quantitative host attributes such as size, age, or stage, as these affect idiobiont and koinobiont parasitoid development. Parasitoids and their hosts, however, constitute only a small part of an ecological community. Consequently, host quality may be affected by a broad range of factors that may operate over variable spatial and temporal scales. Intimate factors include aggressive competition with other parasitoids and pathogens for access to host resources, whereas less intimate factors include the effects of toxic plant compounds (allelochemicals) on parasitoid performance as mediated through primary and/or secondary hosts. It is suggested that future experiments should increase the levels of trophic complexity as these influence the evolution of life history and development strategies in parasitoids. This includes integration of a suite of direct and indirect mechanisms, including biological processes occurring in different ecological realms, such as above-ground and below-ground interactions.