“Constraints imposed by a natural landscape override offspring fitness effects to shape oviposition decisions in wild forked fungus beetles”
Corlett W. Wood, Eric W. Wice, Jill del Sol, Sarah Paul, Brian J. Sanderson, and Edmund D. Brodie III (Apr 2018)
Genetic mark-recapture reveals that wild fungus beetles do not avoid oviposition sites with high offspring mortality
Oviposition site decisions often maximize offspring fitness, but costs constraining choice can cause females to oviposit in poor developmental environments. It is unclear whether these constraints cumulatively outweigh offspring fitness to determine oviposition decisions in wild populations. Understanding how constraints shape oviposition in natural landscapes is a critical step toward revealing how maternal behavior influences fundamental phenomena like the evolution of specialization and the use of “sink” environments. Here, we used a genetic capture-recapture technique to reconstruct the oviposition decisions of individual females in a natural metapopulation of a beetle (Bolitotherus cornutus) that oviposits on three fungus species. We measured larval fitness-related traits (mass, development time, survival) on each fungus, and compared the oviposition preferences of females in laboratory versus field tests. Larval fitness differed substantially among fungi, and females preferred a high-quality (high larval fitness) fungus in laboratory trials. However, females frequently laid eggs on the lowest-quality fungus in the wild. They preferred high-quality fungi when moving between oviposition sites, but this preference disappeared as the distance between sites increased and was inconsistent between study plots. Our results suggest constraints on oviposition preferences in natural landscapes are sufficiently large to drive oviposition in poor developmental environments even when offspring fitness consequences are severe.