Oviposition strategies employed by the western spruce budworm: tests of predictions from the phylogenetic constraints hypothesis

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1 Predictions from the Phylogenetic Constraints Hypothesis were tested for the first time in an eruptive forest Lepidopteran species, the western spruce budworm.

2 In previous work, we established that western spruce budworm females exhibit oviposition preferences with regard to tree age, tree vigour and host species. However, there was no evidence to support a link between oviposition preference and larval performance, which supports the Phylogenetic Constraints Hypothesis.

3 Our preference data led us to test whether female budworms use oviposition strategies to select the sites where they lay their egg masses. Our experiments were designed to make direct comparisons between latent and eruptive insect herbivores with respect to two oviposition behaviours: egg retention and avoidance of conspecifics. This type of research has not previously been conducted on any eruptive forest Lepidopteran.

4 Female budworms retained eggs instead of laying them on less preferred hosts in two of three experiments, but the percentage of eggs they retained was significantly less compared to latent insect herbivores.

5 In addition, female budworms actively avoided oviposition in areas with the highest density of conspecific egg masses, but they laid egg masses in all the other locations provided. This contrasts with the pattern seen in latent insect herbivores, which consistently avoid laying their eggs near any sites already used by conspecifics.

6 Our research indicates that there are extreme differences between latent and eruptive insect herbivores with respect to egg retention and avoidance of conspecifics, thus supporting the Phylogenetic Constraints Hypothesis.

Keywords: Choristoneura occidentalis; Phylogenetic Constraints Hypothesis; egg retention; oviposition strategies; western spruce budworm

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1046/j.1461-9563.2003.00157.x

Affiliations: Department of Biological Sciences, Northern Arizona University, PO Box 5640, Flagstaff, AZ 86011-5640, U.S.A.

Publication date: February 1, 2003

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