Integrative developmental ecology

a review of density-dependent effects on life-history traits and host-microbe interactions in non-social holometabolous insects

Anh The Than, Fleur Ponton, Juliano Morimoto*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

1 Citation (Scopus)
188 Downloads (Pure)


Population density modulates a wide range of eco-evolutionary processes including inter- and intra-specific competition, fitness and population dynamics. In holometabolous insects, the larval stage is particularly susceptible to density-dependent effects because the larva is the resource-acquiring stage. Larval density-dependent effects can modulate the expression of life-history traits not only in the larval and adult stages but also downstream for population dynamics and evolution. Better understanding the scope and generality of density-dependent effects on life-history traits of current and future generations can provide useful knowledge for both theory and experiments in developmental ecology. Here, we review the literature on larval density-dependent effects on fitness of non-social holometabolous insects. First, we provide a functional definition of density to navigate the terminology in the literature. We then classify the biological levels upon which larval density-dependent effects can be observed followed by a review of the literature produced over the past decades across major non-social holometabolous groups. Next, we argue that host-microbe interactions are yet an overlooked biological level susceptible to density-dependent effects and propose a conceptual model to explain how density-dependent effects on host-microbe interactions can modulate density-dependent fitness curves. In summary, this review provides an integrative framework of density-dependent effects across biological levels which can be used to guide future research in the field of ecology and evolution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)659-680
Number of pages22
JournalEvolutionary Ecology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2020. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • Ecological specialisation
  • Ecological theory
  • Population density
  • Microbiome
  • Niche theory
  • Host-microbiome interaction

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