Larval foraging decisions in competitive heterogeneous environments accommodate diets that support egg-to-adult development in a polyphagous fly

Juliano Morimoto* (Corresponding Author), Shabnam Tarahi Tabrizi, Ida Lundbäck, Bishwo Mainali, Phillip W. Taylor, Fleur Ponton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
4 Downloads (Pure)


In holometabolous insects, larval nutrition is a key factor underpinning development and fitness. Heterogeneity in the nutritional environment and larval competition can force larvae to forage in suboptimal diets, with potential downstream fitness effects. Little is known about how larvae respond to competitive heterogeneous environments, and whether variation in these responses affects current and next generations. Here, we designed nutritionally heterogeneous foraging arenas by modifying nutrient concentration, where groups of the polyphagous fruit fly Bactrocera tryoni could forage freely at various levels of larval competition. Larval foraging preferences were highly consistent and independent of larval competition, with greatest foraging propensity for high (100%) followed by intermediate (80% and 60%) nutrient concentration diets, and avoidance of lower concentration diets (less than 60%). We then used these larval preferences (i.e. 100%, 80% and 60% diets) in fitness assays in which larvae competition was maintained constant, and showed that nutrient concentrations selected by the larvae in the foraging trials had no effect on fitness-related traits such as egg hatching and pupation success, adult flight ability, sex ratio, percentage of emergence, nor on adult cold tolerance, fecundity and next-generation pupal weight. These results support the idea that polyphagous species can exploit diverse hosts and nutritional conditions with minimal fitness costs to thrive in new environments.
Original languageEnglish
Article number190090
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number4
Early online date17 Apr 2019
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019

Bibliographical note

This research was conducted as part of the SITplus collaborative fruit fly programme. Project Raising Q-fly Sterile Insect Technique to World Standard (HG14033) is funded by the Hort Frontiers Fruit Fly Fund, part of the Hort Frontiers strategic partnership initiative developed by Hort Innovation, with co-investment from Macquarie University and contributions from the Australian Government.


  • larval nutrition
  • reproduction
  • trans-generational effects
  • development
  • density
  • aggregation
  • SIZE


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