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Trends Ecol Evol. 2001 Apr 1;16(4):165-167.

Herbivore host choice and optimal bad motherhood.

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  • Dept of Biology, University of York, PO Box 373, YO10 5YW, York, UK


When theory predicts which phenotypes are well adapted to a given environment, the data do not always match the predictions. Host-plant selection by herbivorous insects is one such example. Herbivorous insects often appear to make poor choices about where their offspring should develop. New evidence presented by Scheirs et al. suggests that adult insects can choose oviposition sites that enhance their own long-term fitness at the expense of their individual offspring. This suggests that herbivorous insects might be genuinely bad mothers, that host choice is nonetheless adaptive, and that theory needs to incorporate new assumptions about host effects on adult performance.

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