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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2002 Apr 2;99(7):4413-8.

Renewable and nonrenewable resources: amino acid turnover and allocation to reproduction in Lepidoptera.

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Center for Conservation Biology, Department of Biological Sciences, 371 Serra Mall, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305-5020, USA.


The allocation of nutritional resources to reproduction in animals is a complex process of great evolutionary significance. We use compound-specific stable isotope analysis of carbon (GC/combustion/isotope ratio MS) to investigate the dietary sources of egg amino acids in a nectar-feeding hawkmoth. Previous work suggests that the nutrients used in egg manufacture fall into two classes: those that are increasingly synthesized from adult dietary sugar over a female's lifetime (renewable resources), and those that remain exclusively larval in origin (nonrenewable resources). We predict that nonessential and essential amino acids correspond to these nutrient classes and test this prediction by analyzing egg amino acids from females fed isotopically distinct diets as larvae and as adults. The results demonstrate that essential egg amino acids originate entirely from the larval diet. In contrast, nonessential egg amino acids were increasingly synthesized from adult dietary sugars, following a turnover pattern across a female's lifetime. This study demonstrates that female Lepidoptera can synthesize a large fraction of egg amino acids from nectar sugars, using endogenous sources of nitrogen. However, essential amino acids derive only from the larval diet, placing an upper limit on the use of adult dietary resources to enhance reproductive success.

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