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Am Nat. 2008 Oct;172(4):486-96. doi: 10.1086/591677.

Time limitation, egg limitation, the cost of oviposition, and lifetime reproduction by an insect in nature.

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  • 1Department of Entomology, University of California, Davis, California 95616, USA. jarosenheim@ucdavis.edu


For more than 80 years, ecologists have debated whether reproduction by female insect herbivores and parasitoids is constrained by the time needed to find hosts (time limitation) or by the finite supply of mature eggs (egg limitation). Here we present the first direct measures of permanent time limitation and egg limitation and their influences on the cost of oviposition and lifetime reproduction for an insect in nature. We studied the gall midge Rhopalomyia californica, which neither matures nor resorbs eggs during the adult stage. By sampling females soon after their death and correcting for predation effects, we demonstrate that females lay a large proportion of their total complement of eggs (multiyear mean: 82.9%). The egg supplies of 17.1% of females were completely exhausted, with the remaining 82.9% of females being time limited. As predicted by theory, we estimate that even though egg limitation is a minority condition within the population, egg costs make a substantial contribution (57% of the total) to the cost of oviposition. We conclude that insect life histories evolve to produce a balanced risk of time and egg limitation and, therefore, that both of these constraining factors have important influences on insect oviposition behavior and population dynamics.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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