Sexual size and development time dimorphism in a parasitoid wasp: an exception to the rule?

J.A. Harvey, M.R. Strand

    Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

    30 Citations (Scopus)


    Sexual dimorphisms in adult size (SSD) and development time (SDTD) occur in many groups of organisms. In insects, some of the best examples occur in parasitoid wasps where most studies report that females are larger than males but take longer to develop. Sex-specific differences in the effects of size on reproductive success is generally regarded as the main factor responsible for SSD in parasitoids. Most studies also assume that development time must be extended in order to achieve larger size. Here, SSD and SDTD were compared in the solitary endoparasitoid, Microplitis mediator that develops in larvae of the moth Pseudoplusia includens. The relationship between male and female body size and development time were isometric in M. mediator, but contradict most predictions of parasitoid development models. Across first to fourth instars at parasitism, male wasps were consistently larger than females but completed their development significantly faster. The longer development time in female wasps was due primarily to an extended pupal phase, whereas the duration of larval development did not vary significantly with offspring sex. Secondary sex ratios (percentage male) also did not vary with host instar. We conclude that SSD in M. mediator is not only a function of extended development time, but also because of several possible factors: (i) selection favours an increase in male size (relative to female size); (ii) female size is constrained because of predation risk, (iii) as a cost of reducing the cost of inbreeding or (iv) constraints on egg maturation rate. We argue that failure to look carefully at how parasitoids grow can lead to incorrect conclusions about the basis or significance of SSD. [KEYWORDS: Development; parasitoid; sexual dimorphism; Microplitis mediator; Pseudoplusia includens; size]
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)485-492
    JournalEuropean Journal of Entomology
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2003


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