Genotype-environment interaction reveals varied developmental responses to unpredictable host phenology in a tropical insect

Darrell J. Kemp*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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    Understanding the genetic architecture of life history plasticity may inform resilience under environmental change, but relatively little is known for the inhabitants of unpredictable wet-dry tropical environments. Here, I explore the quantitative genetics of juvenile growth and development relative to hostplant phenology in the butterfly Eurema hecabe. Wet season generations of this species breed explosively on leguminous annuals whereas dry season generations subsist at low density upon an alternative perennial host. The wet-to-dry season transition is temporally unpredictable and marked by widespread host defoliation, forcing a large cohort of stranded larvae to either pupate prematurely or prolong development in the hope of renewed foliage production. A split-brood experiment demonstrated greater performance on high quality annual as opposed to perennial host foliage and a marked decline under the stressed conditions faced by stranded wet season larvae. Genetic variances for rates of growth and development were equivalent among high quality treatments but strikingly elevated under resource stress, and the associated cross-environment genetic correlations were indistinguishable from zero. The results demonstrate genotype-environment interaction involving both rank order and variance scale, thereby revealing genetic variance for norms of reaction that may reflect variable risk aversion given an unpredictable tropical host phenology.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1537-1551
    Number of pages15
    Issue number6
    Early online date30 Apr 2021
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


    • Bet-hedging
    • butterfly
    • Eurema
    • phenotypic plasticity
    • Pieridae
    • reaction norm


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