University of Oulu

Kivelä, S. M., Välimäki, P. and Gotthard, K. (2016), Evolution of alternative insect life histories in stochastic seasonal environments. Ecol Evol, 6: 5596–5613. doi:10.1002/ece3.2310

Evolution of alternative insect life histories in stochastic seasonal environments

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Author: Kivelä, Sami M.1,2; Välimäki, Panu2; Gotthard, Karl1
Organizations: 1Department of Zoology, Stockholm University, SE-10691 Stockholm, Sweden
2Department of Ecology, University of Oulu, PO Box 3000, FI-90014 Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.4 MB)
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Language: English
Published: John Wiley & Sons, 2016
Publish Date: 2017-01-04


Deterministic seasonality can explain the evolution of alternative life history phenotypes (i.e., life history polyphenism) expressed in different generations emerging within the same year. However, the influence of stochastic variation on the expression of such life history polyphenisms in seasonal environments is insufficiently understood. Here, we use insects as a model and explore (1) the effects of stochastic variation in seasonality and (2) the life cycle on the degree of life history differentiation among the alternative developmental pathways of direct development and diapause (overwintering), and (3) the evolution of phenology. With numerical simulation, we determine the values of development (growth) time, growth rate, body size, reproductive effort, adult life span, and fecundity in both the overwintering and directly developing generations that maximize geometric mean fitness. The results suggest that natural selection favors the expression of alternative life histories in the alternative developmental pathways even when there is stochastic variation in seasonality, but that trait differentiation is affected by the developmental stage that overwinters. Increasing environmental unpredictability induced a switch to a bet-hedging type of life history strategy, which is consistent with general life history theory. Bethedging appeared in our study system as reduced expression of the direct development phenotype, with associated changes in life history phenotypes, because the fitness value of direct development is highly variable in uncertain environments. Our main result is that seasonality itself is a key factor promoting the evolution of seasonally polyphenic life histories but that environmental stochasticity may modulate the expression of life history phenotypes.

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Series: Ecology and evolution
ISSN: 2045-7758
ISSN-E: 2045-7758
ISSN-L: 2045-7758
Volume: 6
Issue: 16
Pages: 5596 - 5613
DOI: 10.1002/ece3.2310
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
Funding: The Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, the strategic research programme EkoKlim at Stockholm University, the Swedish Research Council, the international fellowship program at Stockholm University, the Finnish Cultural Foundation.
Copyright information: © 2016 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.