Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type






First Advisor

Dr. Charles W. Fox


For insects that develop inside discrete hosts both host size and host quality constrain offspring growth, influencing the evolution of body size and life history traits. This dissertation examines the effects of host size, host quality, and intraspecific competition on life history and associated traits of populations of the seed-feeding beetle S. limbatus adapted to different host plants, and quantifies population differences in phenotypic plasticity. Populations of the study correspond to divergent clades of the species phylogeography (Colombia and United States).

Clades compared differ genetically for all traits when beetles were raised in a common garden. Contrary to expectations from the local adaptation hypothesis, beetles from all populations were larger, developed faster and had higher survivorship when reared in Acacia greggii, the larger host. Two host-plant mediated maternal effects were found: offspring matured sooner, regardless of their rearing host, when their mothers were reared on Pseudosamanea guachapele and females laid larger eggs on Ps. guachapele. These results also show that this species in addition to be a smaller is a low quality host. Females also laid more eggs and sooner on A. greggii than in Ps. guachapele and, laid more eggs on P. guachapele when A. greggii seeds were small than when they were large. Eggs were larger when laid on Ps. guachapele and Parkinsonia florida, two hosts that reduce survivorship in all populations. However, Colombia females laid eggs of similar size on Ps. guachapele and Pa. florida, while USA females laid the largest eggs on Pa. florida. Larger beetles were most affected when larval competition was increased and seed size decreased. The responses of different body sized females were asymmetrical showing significant variation in plasticity.

Although differences between populations in growth and life history traits appear to be adaptations to the size and quality of their host plants, host-associated maternal effects, partly mediated by maternal egg size plasticity play an important role in the evolution of S. limbatus’ diet breadth. More generally, phenotypic plasticity mediates the fitness consequences of using novel hosts, likely facilitating colonization of new hosts but also buffering herbivores from selection post-colonization.



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