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Proc Biol Sci. 2003 Oct 7;270(1528):2051-6.

Cooler butterflies lay larger eggs: developmental plasticity versus acclimation.

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Institute of Biology, Leiden University, PO Box 9516, NL-2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands.


We use a full factorial design to investigate the effects of maternal and paternal developmental temperature, as well as female oviposition temperature, on egg size in the butterfly Bicyclus anynana. Butterflies were raised at two different temperatures and mated in four possible sex-by-parental-temperature crosses. The mated females were randomly divided between high and low oviposition temperatures. On the first day after assigning the females to different temperatures, only female developmental temperature affected egg size. Females reared at the lower temperature laid larger eggs than those reared at a higher temperature. When eggs were measured again after an acclimation period of 10 days, egg size was principally determined by the prevailing temperature during oviposition, with females ovipositing at a lower temperature laying larger eggs. In contrast to widely used assumptions, the effects of developmental temperature were largely reversible. Male developmental temperature did not affect egg size in either of the measurements. Overall, developmental plasticity and acclimation in the adult stage resulted in very similar patterns of egg size plasticity. Consequently, we argue that the most important question when testing the significance of acclamatory changes is not at which stage a given plasticity is induced, but rather whether plastic responses to environmental change are adaptive or merely physiological constraints.

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