Transgenerational Effects on Overall Fitness: Influence of Larval Feeding Experience on the Oviposition Behaviour of Seed Beetle Acanthoscelides Obtectus (Say)
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Oviposition behaviour is recognized as an ecologically significant trait in insects. Since herbivorous insect females have a potential to lay eggs on unsuitable host species, it is hypothesized that this behaviour may be the first step in host-range expansion. The most intriguing phenomenon, found in some insect species, is the ability of females to lay eggs on unsuitable places if hosts are unavailable; this behaviour is termed 'egg-dumping: Egg-dumping can be adaptive plastic response in environments where hosts, either preferred or less suitable, may eventually become available. Transgenerational effects of this behaviour presume changes in larval feeding experience on different host species. Also, diverse larval experience may induce alterations in oviposition behaviour. To test whether egg laying behaviour of adult females can be modified by larval experience, we performed the experiment on two laboratory populations of Acanthoscelides obtectus (Say). First population (P) is housed in the laboratory on the common bean for 200 generations, whereas the second population (C) is derived from the first but has been raised for 197 generations on chickpea, a novel and less suitable host for larval development. In order to analyze differences between short-term and long-term effects of larval experience on egg-dumping, both populations have been exposed to each host seed for one generation. The results of the study show that females from P population lay eggs more frequently in the absence of seeds when developed on chickpeas, compared with P females reared on beans. By contrast to P females, in C population, larval experience has no significant effects either on the number of dumped eggs or on the frequency of dumper females. These results demonstrate a significant inter-population diversification of phenotypic plasticity in egg-dumping behaviour depending on larval host experience. In other words, modification of oviposition behaviour, as a consequence of a long-term larval nutritional stress, can evoke previously unrecognized transgenerational effects.