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- Hormonal regulation and environmental influences in the reproduction of the butterfly Bicyclus anynana (2008)
- Regarding hormonal control of reproduction, the butterfly Bicyclus anynana belongs to a group of the Lepidoptera, in which egg maturation starts after eclosion, and thus vitellogenesis and choriogenesis seem to depend exclusively on juvenile hormones (JH). Using a JH mimic (pyriproxyfen) and an antagonist of JH biosynthesis (MK-801), reproduction in B. anynana could be successfully manipulated towards either a higher or lower fecundity. Especially early fecundity responded to manipulations. Furthermore, both JH III and JH II were found in the hemolymph throughout lifetime. Nevertheless, fecundity and vitellogenin titres were not clearly related to JH titres, as both decreased continuously with age, although JH III titres stayed constant and JH II titres increased. Thus, reproduction in B. anynana is at least to some extent under hormonal control, with JH being probably an important signal especially for the initiation of reproduction. Oviposition temperature induces a plastic response in egg size and number in B. anynana. While more but smaller eggs are laid at high temperatures representing wet season conditions, larger but fewer eggs are oviposited at lower temperatures, which are experienced in the dry season. This plasticity is thought to be adaptive in this species inhabiting seasonal environments. Vitellogenins are representing a major part of eggs and consequently, JH dynamics represents an obvious target for changes in egg size, as vitellogenin synthesis and/or incorporation into developing eggs might increase or decrease through changes in JH titres. Female B. anynana butterflies exposed to different oviposition temperatures showed the expected response to adult temperature, producing fewer but larger eggs at the colder temperature, but more and smaller eggs at the warmer temperature. However, no evidence was found that this striking example of phenotypic plasticity is under hormonal control, as JH III, JH II, vitellogenin titres and egg proteins showed no significant variations across temperatures. Based on these similar patterns across temperatures, the results in this thesis suggest that the temperature-mediated reproductive plasticity is not mediated through JH in B. anynana. The known fitness advantage of the larger eggs produced at lower temperatures in B. anynana may be related to size per se, to a larger absolute amount of nutrients or to relative changes in egg composition. Therefore, this thesis explored the consequences of temperature variation on egg and hatchling composition, and the associated use and turnover of energy and egg compounds in relation to temperature. Overall, larger eggs produced at the lower temperature were achieved by providing these eggs with larger quantities of all compounds investigated and thus more energy, whilst relative egg composition was rather similar to that of smaller eggs laid at the higher temperature. Turnover rates during embryonic development differed across developmental temperatures, suggesting an emphasis on hatchling quality (i.e. protein content) at the more stressful lower temperature, but on storage reserves (i.e. lipids) at the higher temperature. These observed differences may consequently represent adaptive maternal effects. The availability of adequate adult nutrition is essential for successful reproduction in B. anynana, as without access to carbohydrates in the adult stage no eggs will be produced. A commonly used method for estimating the fitness effects of diets is determining the number and sometimes sizes of eggs produced and often not including offspring viability. Five different nutritional treatments were used for female B. anynana butterflies ranging from moist banana, plain sucrose solution, to sucrose solution enriched with lipids, yeast and finally minerals and vitamins. These treatments were analyzed with regard to their effects on egg composition as well as egg hatchling success. Adult diet was demonstrated to have pronounced effects on fecundity, egg composition and egg hatching success, with butterflies feeding on the complex nutrition of banana fruit performing best. Vitamins and minerals in a sucrose-based diet increased fecundity, but did not affect offspring hatching success. Effects of adult diet on egg composition were not straightforward, indicating complex interactions among specific compounds. Total egg energy and water content seemed to be related to hatching success of progeny. The results of this thesis demonstrate that egg composition should be taken into account in such studies, as egg size and number does not necessarily represent a reliable proxy for reproductive energetic investment.