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J Insect Physiol. 2011 Dec;57(12):1592-601. doi: 10.1016/j.jinsphys.2011.08.001. Epub 2011 Aug 9.

Coping with an unpredictable and stressful environment: the life history and metabolic response to variable food and host availability in a polyphagous tephritid fly.

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Instituto de Ecología, A.C., Apartado Postal 63, 91000 Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico.


The way energy resources are used under variable environmental conditions lies at the heart of our understanding of resource management and opportunism in many organisms. Here we sought to determine how a time-limited, synovigenic and polyphagous insect with a high reproductive-potential (Anastrephaludens), copes behaviourally and metabolically with environmental unpredictability represented by constant and variable regimes of host availability and variation in food quality. We hypothesized that an adaptive response to a windfall of nutritious food would be the rapid accumulation of energy metabolites (whole body lipids, glycogen and proteins) in the female. We also studied patterns of oogenesis as an indicator of egg-reabsorption under stressful environmental conditions. As predicted, patterns of energy metabolites were mainly driven by the quality and temporal pattern of food availability. In contrast, patterns of host availability had a lower impact upon metabolites. When given constant access to high quality nutrients, after an initial increase early in life, whole body lipids and glycogen were regulated downward to a steady-state level and somatic protein levels did not vary. In contrast, when food uncertainty was introduced, whole body lipid, glycogen and protein oscillated sharply with peaks associated with pulses of high-quality food. Production of eggs was highest when offered continuous access to hosts and high quality food. Importantly, females fully recovered their reproductive capacity when fruit became available following a period of host deprivation. With no evidence of egg resorption and high levels of egg dumping, it appears that egg dumping may favour the continuous production of eggs such that the female's reproductive tissues are ready to respond to rapid changes in the availability of hosts. Our results exemplify the capacity of insects to maximize reproduction under variable and stressful environmental conditions.

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