Body size and the timing of egg production in parasitoid wasps.

J. Ellers, M. Jervis

    Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


    In insects several key fitness-related variables are positively correlated with intraspecific variation in body size, but little is known about size-related variation in the timing of egg production within species. Female insects are known to vary in the degree to which they concentrate egg production into the early part of life. This variation has been quantified as the ovigeny index, defined as the proportion of the maximum potential lifetime complement of eggs that is mature following emergence from the pupa. We tested the hypothesis that the timing of egg production depends both on body size and on host availability, by means of a dynamic programming model that predicted optimal resource allocation to reproduction and survival together with the resulting ovigeny index, in non-feeding synovigenic parasitoids of different sizes. As body size increases, the proportionate increase in resource allocation to initial egg load is less than the proportionate increase in allocation to lifetime fecundity and potential life span, leading to a deferred investment in reproduction as shown by a decrease in ovigeny index. High habitat quality and high habitat stochasticity in reproductive opportunities have a significant effect on the optimal allocation of resources to reproduction and survival, and thus select for early reproduction, i.e. an increased ovigeny index. The ovigeny concept - ovigeny index together with its life-history correlates - enables understanding of the general occurrence of size-related deferment of reproductive investment in parasitoid wasps and also helps explain a significant part of the considerable life-history variation found among such insects.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)164-172
    Publication statusPublished - 2003


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