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Bull Entomol Res. 2003 Dec;93(6):553-9.

Food-plant effects on larval performance do not translate into differences in fitness between populations of Panolis flammea (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae).

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  • 1Centre for Ecology and Hydrology Banchory Hill of Brathens, Aberdeenshire, UK.


In the UK, Panolis flammea (Denis & Schiffermüller) is a pest of monocultures of non-native lodgepole pine Pinus contorta Douglas, but not of the indigenous host Scots pine P. sylvestrisL. This difference in population dynamics may be due to the adaptation of P. flammea populations to the phenology, chemical composition and natural enemy complement of lodgepole pine. To ascertain if there was local adaptation of P. flammea populations to lodgepole pine, this study tested for improved performance of both larvae and adults on the host plant species from which they were sourced, compared with their performance on the alternative host plant species. No difference was found in the relative mean performance of populations sourced from Scots pine or lodgepole pine plantations, when fed on Scots or lodgepole pine foliage. Larvae grew faster on Scots pine but this difference did not translate into differences in pupal weight, female body weight or fecundity. Indeed, those insects that had fed on lodgepole pine had a longer lifespan than those that had fed on Scots pine, which, if translated into greater probability of mating or higher fecundity, could contribute to the observed outbreak dynamics in the field. The prediction that the observed outbreak dynamics of P. flammea can be explained by the existence of populations locally adapted to lodgepole pine was not supported. These results cast doubt on the use of larval growth parameters as surrogates of fitness in Lepidoptera.

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