A1 Journal article (refereed)
Appearance before performance? : Nutritional constraints on life‐history traits, but not warning signal expression in aposematic moths (2020)

Lindstedt, C., Suisto, K., & Mappes, J. (2020). Appearance before performance? : Nutritional constraints on life‐history traits, but not warning signal expression in aposematic moths. Journal of Animal Ecology, 89(2), 494-505. https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2656.13103

JYU authors or editors

Publication details

All authors or editors: Lindstedt, Carita; Suisto, Kaisa; Mappes, Johanna

Journal or series: Journal of Animal Ecology

ISSN: 0021-8790

eISSN: 1365-2656

Publication year: 2020

Volume: 89

Issue number: 2

Pages range: 494-505

Publisher: Wiley; British Ecological Society

Publication country: United Kingdom

Publication language: English

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2656.13103

Research data link: https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.bj7bg83

Publication open access: Openly available

Publication channel open access: Partially open access channel

Publication is parallel published (JYX): https://jyx.jyu.fi/handle/123456789/65595


1.Trade‐offs have been shown to play an important role in the divergence of mating strategies and sexual ornamentation, but their importance in explaining warning signal diversity has received less attention. In aposematic organisms, allocation costs of producing the conspicuous warning signal pigmentation under nutritional stress could potentially trade‐off with life‐history traits and maintain variation in warning colouration.

2. We studied this with an aposematic herbivore Arctia plantaginis (Arctiidae), whose larvae and adults show extensive variation in aposematic colouration. In larvae, less melanic colouration (i.e. larger orange patterns) produces a more efficient warning signal against predators, whereas high amounts of melanism (smaller orange pattern) enhance thermoregulation, correlate with better immunity and make individuals harder to detect for naïve predators.

3. We conducted a factorial rearing experiment with larvae originating from lines selected for either small or large orange signal size, which were reared on an artificial diet that had either low or high protein content. Protein content of the diet is critical for melanin production. We measured the effects of diet on individual colouration, life‐history traits, immune defence and reproductive output. We also compared the responses to dietary conditions between the small and large larval signal genotypes.

4. Protein content of the diet did not affect warning colouration in the larval stage, but larval signal sizes differed significantly among selection lines, confirming that its variation is mainly genetically determined. In adults, signal line or diet did not affect colouration in hindwings, but males’ forewings had more melanin on the high than on low protein diet. Contrary to colouration, diet quality had a stronger impact on life‐history traits: individuals developed for longer, had smaller hindwing sizes in females and lower immune defence on the low protein content diet compared to the high. These costs were higher for more melanic larval signal genotypes in terms of development time and female hindwing size.

5. We conclude that low plasticity in warning signal characteristics makes signal expression robust under varying dietary conditions. Therefore, variation in diet quality is not likely to constrain signal expression, but can have a bigger impact on performance.

Keywords: warning coloration; genotype; nutrition; mating; plasticity

Free keywords: phenotypic plasticity; diet; signal evolution; melanin; genotype-by-environment interaction

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Ministry reporting: Yes

Reporting Year: 2020

JUFO rating: 2

Last updated on 2021-07-07 at 21:31