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Keywords:

  • Bicyclus anynana ;
  • environmental stress;
  • immune defence;
  • inbreeding depression;
  • insect;
  • stress resistance trait;
  • stress tolerance

Abstract

Theory predicts that inbreeding depression should be more pronounced under environmental stress due to an increase in the expression of recessive deleterious alleles. If so, inbred populations may be especially vulnerable to environmental change. Against this background, we here investigate effects of inbreeding, temperature stress and its interactions with inbreeding in the tropical butterfly Bicyclus anynana. We use a full-factorial design with three levels of inbreeding (F = 0/0.25/0.38) and three temperature treatments (2 h exposure to 1, 27 or 39 °C). Despite using relatively low levels of inbreeding significant inbreeding depression was found in pupal mass, pupal time, thorax mass, abdomen fat content, egg hatching success and fecundity. However, stress resistance traits (heat tolerance, immune function) were not affected by inbreeding and interactions with temperature treatments were virtually absent. We thus found no support for an increased sensitivity of inbred individuals to environmental stress, and suspect that such patterns are restricted to harsher conditions. Our temperature treatments evidently imposed stress, significantly reducing longevity, fecundity, egg hatching success and haemocyte numbers, while fat content, protein content and lysozyme activity remained unaffected. Males and females differed in all traits measured except pupal time, protein content and phenoloxidase (PO) activity. Correlation analyses revealed, among others, a trade-off between PO and lysozyme activity, and negative correlations between fat content and several other traits. We stress that more data are needed on the effects of inbreeding, temperature variation and sexual differences on insect immune function before more general conclusions can be drawn.