Diet-induced developmental plasticity in life histories and energy metabolism in a beetle

Sergio Urrejola, Roberto Nespolo, Marco A. Lardies

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Adaptive phenotypic plasticity, has been recognized as an important strategy by which organisms maximize fitness in variable environments, which vary through development. A disassociation among stages should represent a null effect of the environment experienced during early ontogeny in the expression of adult traits. Food quality greatly infl uences survival, development and reproduction in many arthropod herbivores. We examined the effects of diet protein in physiological and life-history traits in the yellow mealworm beetle Tenebrio molitor through ontogeny. We established four experimental treatments: Low Protein (LP), Low Protein Control (LPC), High Protein (HP), and High Protein Control (HPC) with recently eclosioned larvae each. Individuals were maintained on the same diet or transferred to the opposite diet for all pupae period and almost all adult period. Contrary to the expected, the duration of life-cycle, larval growth rate and body mass in T. molitor were similar in diet treatments. We found intra-individual trade-offs between environmental diet (rich or poor in protein content) during larval phase and egg number. Larvae fed on a protein-defi cient diet exhibited signifi cantly higher respiratory rates than larvae fed on a rich protein diet. Compensatory feeding could act in T. molitor larvae indicating differences in metabolism but not in growth rate, body mass and life-cycle characteristics. Our results demonstrate the plasticity of reproductive and metabolic traits and lifecycle characteristics of T. molitor and how changes that occur in relation to diet can have profound effects on progeny and female fitness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)523-533
Number of pages11
JournalRevista Chilena de Historia Natural
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2011


  • CO production
  • Complex life-cycle
  • Food quality
  • Metabolism
  • Ontogeny


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