Trade-offs of host use between generalist and specialist **Helicoverpa** sibling species : adult oviposition and larval performance
Faculty of Sciences. Biology
Oecologia. - Berlin
, p. 459-469
University of Antwerp
Much attention has been paid to the question of the relative importance of female behaviour versus larval feeding capacities in determining the host range of herbivorous insects. Host-use trade-offs displayed by generalist and specialist sister species of the genus Helicoverpa were evaluated to examine the relationship between maternal choice and offspring performance. The prediction of optimal oviposition theory, that females will choose to lay eggs on plants on which their offspring perform best as larvae, was tested by measuring oviposition preference and larval performance of Helicoverpa armigera and H. assulta on tobacco, sunflower, and hot pepper. These two measures were more highly correlated in the specialist H. assulta. Both species exhibited the same oviposition preference ranking: tobacco > sunflower > hot pepper. H. armigera larvae preferred sunflower, followed by tobacco and hot pepper; while H. assulta larvae preferred tobacco to sunflower and hot pepper, consistent with their mothers' oviposition preference. Duration of the total period from egg to adult emergence for each species was significantly shorter on the host plant preferred by the larvae. H. assulta had shorter larval duration and higher relative growth rate than H. armigera on tobacco and hot pepper, and vice versa for sunflower, indicating species differences in host utilization. Thus, while only the specialist H. assulta displayed the predicted optimal oviposition pattern, females of both species show the least preference for the plant on which their offspring perform worst. Selection for optimal oviposition may be stronger on the specialist, which has fewer choices and lower lifetime fecundity than the generalist.