Innate preference hierarchies coupled with adult experience, rather than larval imprinting or transgenerational acclimation, determine host plant use in Pieris rapae

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The evolution of host range drives diversification in phytophagous insects, and understanding the female oviposition choices is pivotal for understanding host specialization. One controversial mechanism for female host choice is Hopkins’ host selection principle, where females are predicted to increase their preference for the host species they were feeding upon as larvae. A recent hypothesis posits that such larval imprinting is especially adaptive in combination with anticipatory transgenerational acclimation, so that females both allocate and adapt their offspring to their future host. We study the butterfly Pieris rapae, for which previous evidence suggests that females prefer to oviposit on host individuals of similar nitrogen content as the plant they were feeding upon as larvae, and where the offspring show higher performance on the mother's host type. We test the hypothesis that larval experience and anticipatory transgenerational effects influence female host plant acceptance (no-choice) and preference (choice) of two host plant species (Barbarea vulgaris and Berteroa incana) of varying nitrogen content. We then test the offspring performance on these hosts. We found no evidence of larval imprinting affecting female decision-making during oviposition, but that an adult female experience of egg laying in no-choice trials on the less-preferred host Be. incana slightly increased the P. rapae propensity to oviposit on Be. incana in subsequent choice trials. We found no transgenerational effects on female host acceptance or preference, but negative transgenerational effects on larval performance, because the offspring of P. rapae females that had developed on Be. incana as larvae grew slower on both hosts, and especially on Be. incana. Our results suggest that among host species, preferences are guided by hard-wired preference hierarchies linked to species-specific host traits and less affected by larval experience or transgenerational effects, which may be more important for females evaluating different host individuals of the same species.


Enheter & grupper
Externa organisationer
  • Catholic University of Leuven
  • Stockholms universitet

Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ) – OBLIGATORISK

  • Evolutionsbiologi


Sidor (från-till)242-251
Antal sidor10
TidskriftEcology and Evolution
Utgåva nummer1
Tidigt onlinedatum2020 dec 8
StatusPublished - 2021 jan
Peer review utfördJa