Phenological mismatch affects individual fitness and population growth in the winter moth

Natalie E. van Dis* (Corresponding author), Geert Jan Sieperda, Vidisha Bansal, Bart van Lith, Bregje Wertheim, Marcel E. Visser

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Climate change can severely impact species that depend on temporary resources by inducing phenological mismatches between consumer and resource seasonal timing. In the winter moth, warmer winters caused eggs to hatch before their food source, young oak leaves, became available. This phenological mismatch changed the selection on the temperature sensitivity of egg development rate. However, we know little about the fine-scale fitness consequences of phenological mismatch at the individual level and how this mismatch affects population dynamics in the winter moth. To determine the fitness consequences of mistimed egg hatching relative to timing of oak budburst, we quantified survival and pupation weight in a feeding experiment. We found that mismatch greatly increased mortality rates of freshly hatched caterpillars, as well as affecting caterpillar growth and development time. We then investigated whether these individual fitness consequences have population-level impacts by estimating the effect of phenological mismatch on population dynamics, using our long-term data (1994-2021) on relative winter moth population densities at four locations in The Netherlands. We found a significant effect of mismatch on population density with higher population growth rates in years with a smaller phenological mismatch. Our results indicate that climate change-induced phenological mismatch can incur severe individual fitness consequences that can impact population density in the wild.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20230414
Number of pages1
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number2005
Publication statusPublished - 30 Aug 2023


  • climate change
  • demography
  • fitness
  • Operophtera brumata
  • phenological mismatch
  • population cycles

Research theme

  • Climate change


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