Published online by Cambridge University Press: 21 May 2018
Phenotypic plasticity is thought to evolve in response to environmental unpredictability and can shield genotypes from selection. However, selection can also act on plastic traits. Egg-laying behaviour, including clutch size regulation, is a plastic behavioural trait among tephritid fruit flies. We compared plasticity in clutch size regulation among females of Anastrepha ludens populations stemming from environments that differed in the degree of predictability in egg-laying opportunities. Clutch size regulation in response to hosts of different sizes was compared among flies from (a) a wild, highly isolated population, (b) a wild population that switches seasonally from a small wild host fruit that varies greatly in abundance to an abundant large-sized commercial host, and (c) a laboratory population. Flies from all three populations adjusted clutch number and size according to host size. However, flies from the heterogeneous wild environment were more plastic in adjusting clutch size than flies from agricultural settings that also laid fewer eggs; yet both populations were more plastic in adjusting clutch size in line with host size when compared with laboratory females. When wild and orchard females encountered the largest host, clutch size was extremely variable and egg regulation did not follow the same trend. Heterogeneity in host availability in space and time appears to be as important as seasonal variation in host size in maintaining plastic clutch size regulation behaviour. In stable environments, there was a clear reduction in the plasticity of these traits.
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