Contrasting responses to desiccation and starvation by eggs and neonates of two Lepidoptera

H. A. Woods, M. S. Singer

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17 Scopus citations


We examined the effects of desiccation on eggs and first-instar larvae of two species of Lepidoptera, Grammia geneura (Arctiidae) and Manduca sexta (Sphingidae). Grammia geneura occurs primarily in grasslands and savannas of the southwestern United States; M. sexta co-occurs with G. geneura but also is cosmopolitan across much of the Western Hemisphere. Eggs of G. geneura exposed to 0% relative humidity (RH) lost water much less rapidly (7.6 μg d-1; 2.4% d-1) than did eggs of M. sexta (79.5 μg d-1; 5.7% d-1). Eggs of both species survived at rates exceeding 75% at both 0% and 85% RH. Neonates of the two species responded differently to desiccation and starvation. In 85% RH, larval G. geneura survived at high rates (>80%) without access to food or water up to day 17, and in 0% RH, they survived at rates exceeding 50% through the first 10 d. Larvae at 0% RH lost mass very slowly (7.2 μg d-1; 2.9% d-1), which was attributable both to low rates of water loss and to an ability to reduce metabolic rate to low levels. Larval M. sexta, in contrast, had rates of mortality that were much higher: after 1 d, fewer than 30% were alive in either group, and by about 1.5 d, all were dead. Neonate M. sexta also lost mass much more rapidly at 0% RH, about 329 μg d-1. Water from metabolism appeared to contribute significantly to the water budget of G. geneura but not of M. sexta. These data show that G. geneura and M. sexta can inhabit similar macroclimates via remarkably different physiologies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)594-606
Number of pages13
JournalPhysiological and Biochemical Zoology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2001


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