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Reproduction in Risky Environments: The Role of Invasive Egg Predators in Ladybird Laying Strategies.

08:00 EDT 21st October 2015 | BioPortfolio

Summary of "Reproduction in Risky Environments: The Role of Invasive Egg Predators in Ladybird Laying Strategies."

Reproductive environments are variable and the resources available for reproduction are finite. If reliable cues about the environment exist, mothers can alter offspring phenotype in a way that increases both offspring and maternal fitness ('anticipatory maternal effects'-AMEs). Strategic use of AMEs is likely to be important in chemically defended species, where the risk of offspring predation may be modulated by maternal investment in offspring toxin level, albeit at some cost to mothers. Whether mothers adjust offspring toxin levels in response to variation in predation risk is, however, unknown, but is likely to be important when assessing the response of chemically defended species to the recent and pervasive changes in the global predator landscape, driven by the spread of invasive species. Using the chemically defended two-spot ladybird, Adalia bipunctata, we investigated reproductive investment, including egg toxin level, under conditions that varied in the degree of simulated offspring predation risk from larval harlequin ladybirds, Harmonia axyridis. H. axyridis is a highly voracious alien invasive species in the UK and a significant intraguild predator of A. bipunctata. Females laid fewer, larger egg clusters, under conditions of simulated predation risk (P+) than when predator cues were absent (P-), but there was no difference in toxin level between the two treatments. Among P- females, when mean cluster size increased there were concomitant increases in both the mass and toxin concentration of eggs, however when P+ females increased cluster size there was no corresponding increase in egg toxin level. We conclude that, in the face of offspring predation risk, females either withheld toxins or were physiologically constrained, leading to a trade-off between cluster size and egg toxin level. Our results provide the first demonstration that the risk of offspring predation by a novel invasive predator can influence maternal investment in toxins within their offspring.

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Journal Details

This article was published in the following journal.

Name: PloS one
ISSN: 1932-6203
Pages: e0139404

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