Low maternal host-encounter rate enhances offspring proliferation in a polyembryonic parasitoid

Na'ama Morag, Ally R. Harari, Amos Bouskila, Tamar Keasar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Mothers can epigenetically influence their progeny's characteristics in response to environmental conditions they experience, thereby increasing offspring adaptation to anticipated future conditions. When resource shortage is anticipated, females are expected to produce larger offspring, as large body size often confers competitive and dispersal advantages. We tested this hypothesis using the polyembryonic parasitoid, Copidosoma koehleri. In this wasp, each egg proliferates into a clone of genetically identical individuals within its moth host, and body size correlates negatively with clone size. We expected females anticipating resource limitation to produce fewer and larger offspring per clone than females that anticipate abundant resources. Encounter rates of parasitoid females with hosts were manipulated to simulate varying levels of resource availability. High-encounter-rate females were introduced to ten hosts successively, while low-encounter-rate females encountered each of ten hosts at 8-h intervals. To control for female age at oviposition, we also introduced females at different ages to a single host. Contrary to our predictions, low-encounter-rate females produced larger offspring clones than high-encounter-rate females, and offspring body size did not differ between treatments. Low-encounter-rate females were shorter-lived than females that encountered hosts successively. Single-oviposition females resembled the high-encounter-rate females in longevity but produced as many offspring per clone as in the low-encounter-rate treatment. Female age, and number of previous host encounters, did not affect offspring clone size. These results suggest that offspring proliferation bears a cost to mothers, thus mothers that repeatedly induce high proliferation in their offspring pay an increased price.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2287-2296
Number of pages10
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number12
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2011


  • Body size
  • Epigenetic effect
  • Host density
  • Parasitoid
  • Polyembryony

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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