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Host size overrides maternal effects on development of a secondary hyperparasitoid wasp
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  • Xianhui Shi,
  • Rieta Gols,
  • Jetske Boer,
  • Jeff Harvey
Xianhui Shi
Wageningen Universiteit en Research

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Rieta Gols
Wageningen University
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Jetske Boer
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Jeff Harvey
Netherlands Institute of Ecology
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Offspring phenotype in most organisms is significantly mediated by genetically-based traits inherited from both parents. For instance, in many well-studied organisms, such as mammals, traits like body size and morphology are heritable and are passed on from one generation to the next. In invertebrates, such as arthropods, the situation is more complex, because traits like growth rate and body size are often more strongly correlated with biotic and abiotic parameters like food quality and availability and temperature. Thus, growth and body size are less based on heritability from parents (‘nature’) and more influenced by short-term environmental factors (‘nurture’). Here, we evaluate maternal and host size-related effects on the development of an asexually reproducing (= female only) parasitoid, Gelis agilis on pre-pupae in cocoons of its host, the primary parasitoid, Cotesia glomerata. Female G. agilis from two adult size classes, ‘small’ (mean 0.7 mg) or ‘large’ (mean 1.2 mg) were allowed to parasitize cocoons of differing size along a continuum from ~1.2 mg to ~4.0 mg and the body size and development time of their offspring was measured. In both body size classes of G. agilis mothers, offspring adult body size correlated strongly with host cocoon size, whereas there was no maternal effect on offspring size. Our results reveal that host quality completely overrides any effects of maternal size on the development of G. agilis. Given that parasitoids are under strong selection for optimal exploitation, allocation and utilization of limited resources contained in individual hosts, we argue that host quality is far more of a constraint on parasitoid development and fitness than traits inherited from one or both parents when producing sexually.