Costs and benefits of underground pupal chambers constructed by insects: A test using manduca sexta

Jonathan C. Sprague, H. Arthur Woods

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Many holometabolous insects metamorphose in belowground pupal chambers. Although the chambers may be elaborate and their construction costly, their functions are unknown. Using laboratory and field experiments, we examined the costs and functions of chambers made by the hawk moth Manduca sexta (Sphingidae). Costs were large in some circumstances; prepupal larvae lost up to 60% of their body mass when constructing chambers in dry soils. We tested three alternative hypotheses about what, if anything, chambers do for the individuals that make them: (1) chambers provide critical open space underground, allowing room for ecdysis and preventing soil from deforming the metamorphosing individual; (2) chambers raise the local relative humidity, so that cuticular and respiratory water losses are minimized; and (3) chamber walls prevent predators and pathogens from attacking. The data support the first hypothesis (about open space) and largely exclude the other two. These results provide a simple and potentially broad explanation for the evolution of chamber building in metamorphosing insects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)521-534
Number of pages14
JournalPhysiological and Biochemical Zoology
Volume88
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2015

Keywords

  • Ecdysis
  • Extended phenotype
  • Insect engineers
  • Metamorphosis
  • Physiology
  • Pupal chamber
  • Pupation
  • Soil

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