Factors promoting maternal trophic egg provisioning in non-eusocial animals

Suzuki Noriyuki, Kazutaka Kawatsu, Naoya Osawa

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7 Citations (Scopus)


The adaptive function of trophic egg-laying is generally regarded as extended parental investment to the offspring. However, the evolutionary factors promoting trophic egg-laying are still unclear, because the amount of maternal investment per offspring should be ideally equal between smaller offspring with trophic eggs and larger offspring without any additional investment. Several authors have suggested that trophic egg-laying should evolve only when egg size is constrained, but this hypothesis has not been evaluated. We investigated the evolutionary mechanisms of trophic egg-laying by two different approaches. First, we evaluated morphological constraints on egg size in two sibling ladybird species, Harmonia axyridis, which is known to produce trophic eggs, and H. yedoensis. Second, we theoretically predicted the optimal proportion of trophic eggs to total eggs and egg size in relation to environmental heterogeneity, predictability of environmental quality, and investment efficiency of trophic egg consumption. The intra- and interspecific morphological comparisons suggest that morphological constraints on the evolutionary determination of egg size are weak at best in the two ladybird species. Moreover, we theoretically showed that small egg size and trophic egg-laying are favoured in heterogeneous environments when mothers cannot adjust egg size plastically. We also showed that even a small reduction in investment efficiency makes a trophic egg strategy unlikely, despite relatively high environmental predictability. We conclude that trophic egg provisioning may be a flexible maternal adaptation to a highly heterogeneous environment rather than a response to a morphological constraint on egg size.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)455-465
Number of pages11
JournalPopulation Ecology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2012 Jul


  • Egg size
  • Environmental heterogeneity
  • Harmonia
  • Maternal investment
  • Morphological constraint
  • Phenotypic plasticity


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