Density-by-diet interactions during larval development shape adult life history trait expression and fitness in a polyphagous fly

Juliano Morimoto*, The Anh Than, Binh Nguyen, Ida Lundbäck, Hue Dinh, Fleur Ponton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
25 Downloads (Pure)


Habitat quality early in life determines individual fitness, with possible long-term evolutionary effects on groups and populations. In holometabolous insects, larval ecology plays a major role in determining the expression of traits in adulthood, but how ecological conditions during the larval stage interact to shape adult life history and fitness, particularly in nonmodel organisms, remains subject to scrutiny. Consequently, our knowledge of the interactive effects of ecological factors on insect development is limited. Here, using the polyphagous fly Bactrocera tryoni, we conducted a fully factorial design where we manipulated larval density and larval diet (protein rich, standard, and sugar rich) to gain insights into how these ecological factors interact to modulate adult fitness. As expected, a protein-rich diet resulted in faster larval development and heavier and leaner adults that were more fecund compared with the standard and sugar-rich diets, irrespective of larval density. Females from the protein-rich larval diet had overall higher reproductive rate (i.e., eggs per day) than females from other diets, and reproductive rate decreased linearly with density for females from the protein-rich diet but nonlinearly for females from the standard and sugar-rich diets over time. Surprisingly, adult lipid reserve increased with larval density for adults from the sugar-rich diet (as opposed to decreasing as in other diets), possibly because of a stress response to an extremely adverse condition during development (i.e., high intraspecific competition and poor nutrition). Together, our results provide insights into how ecological factors early in life interact and shape the fate of individuals through life stages in holometabolous insects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E170-E185
Number of pages16
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Issue number5
Early online date25 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - May 2022


  • ecological niche
  • diet specialization
  • isodars


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