Date of Award:
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Department name when degree awarded
Gary E. Belovsky
A major challenge in ecology is to understand intraspecific variation in life histories. Variation in resource availability can lead to differences in reproductive allocation and life histories. Grasshoppers are a good organism for the study of variation in life histories, since they exhibit life history plasticity in response to biotic and environmental factors. An optimality model for grasshoppers was developed that predicts optimal total allocation to reproduction and optimal effort-per-offspring as functions of resource availability and mortality. Relative allocation to reproduction is predicted to increase with resource availability, while relative allocation to survival declines. A resource-based trade-off between egg size and number does not exist, as optimal egg size is predicted to be independent of resource intake. I examined if changes in reproductive allocation and survival of Melanoplus sanguinipes (Fabricus) under a range of resource availabilities fit the predictions of the model. The patterns of reproductive allocation and survival in the field were in qualitative agreement with the predictions.
I examined the importance of density, resources, and parasitism on the life history patterns of grasshoppers. I conducted an experiment to examine if differences in reproductive allocation of M. sanguinipes are primarily explained by exploitative competition. Per capita resource availability explained a significant amount of the variation in reproduction , as expected with exploitative competition. M. sanguinpes grasshoppers appeared to trade off resource allocation to reproduction for that of allocation to survival, because per capita resource availability did not affect survival.
Careful examinations of changes in life history characteristics in response to parasitism are lacking, despite the fact that parasites often influence resource availability for the host. I investigated the effects of a grasshopper ectoparasitic mite on grasshopper reproduction and survival. Mites had small effects on grasshopper survival. As predicted, both species had reduced initial and total reproduction, and completed development of a lower percentage of ovarioles initiated when parasitized. These experiments act to expand our knowledge of life history theory and further our understanding of grasshopper life history variation and population fluctuations.
Branson, David Heath, "Reproductive Allocation and Survival in Grasshoppers: Effects of Resource Availability, Grasshopper Density, and Parasitism" (2001). All Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 6583.
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