Evol Ecol Res 6: 993-1002 (2004)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

Why are so few parasitoid wasp species pro-ovigenic?

J. Ellers1* and M.A. Jervis2

1Department of Animal Ecology, Institute of Ecological Sciences, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, De Boelelaan 1085, 1081 HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands and  2Cardiff School of Biosciences, University of Cardiff, Cardiff CF10 3TL, UK

Author to whom all correspondence should be addressed.
e-mail: jacintha.ellers@ecology.falw.vu.nl


A recent survey of egg maturation strategies among parasitoid wasps showed strict pro-ovigeny (emergence with the entire potential lifetime complement of eggs mature) to be confined to a small number of species. This finding raises the following important question: Why is strict pro-ovigeny such a rare strategy? Using a dynamic programming model, we show that three traits – small body size relative to travel costs, large eggs relative to the total allocatable resources, and uniformity in host spatial distribution (which translates into extremely low stochasticity in the number of patch encounters) – either by themselves or in combination, may lead to the evolution of strict pro-ovigeny. Turning next to the empirical evidence, we conclude that the prevalence of host patchiness over spatial uniformity has been particularly important in constraining the incidence of strict pro-ovigeny among the world’s parasitoid wasp fauna. Model predictions aside, the empirical finding that strict pro-ovigeny is a rare egg maturation strategy suggests that theoreticians should – unless evidence indicates otherwise – assume synovigeny (emergence with only part of the lifetime egg complement mature upon emergence) to be the case when considering parasitoid behavioural strategies and parasitoid–host population interactions.

Keywords: body size, egg size, habitat stochasticity, life-history strategy, ovigeny index, resource allocation, trade-offs.

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