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The existence, nature, and physiological consequences of genetic variation for juvenile hormone esterase (JHE) activity was studied in the wing-polymorphic cricket, Gryllus firmus. Hemolymph (blood) JHE activity was sixfold lower in nascent short-winged (SW) females, relative to nascent long-winged (LW) females, during the last juvenile stadium (stage). Morph-associated genetic variation for JHE activity had two causes, variation in loci: (1) regulating whole-organism enzyme activity; and (2) controlling the degree to which JHE is secreted into the blood. Reduced JHE activity in nascent SW-selected individuals was associated with reduced in vivo juvenile hormone catabolism. This suggests that variation in JHE activity during juvenile development may have important physiological consequences with respect to the regulation of blood levels of juvenile hormone and consequent specification of wing morph. This is the first definitive demonstration of genetic variation for hormonal metabolism in any insect and a genetic association between hormone metabolism and the subsequent expression of morphological variation (wing morph). However, we have not yet fi rmly established whether these associations represent causal relationships. In contrast to the clear association between JHE activity and wing morph development, we observed no evidence indicating that variation in JHE activity plays any direct or indirect role in causing the dramatic differences in ovarian growth between adult wing morphs. Variation in JHE activity also does not appear to be important in coordinating the development of wing morph with the subsequent expression of reproductive differences between adult morphs. Finally, genetic variation for the developmental profiles of JHE activity during juvenile and adult stages are remarkably similar in three Gryllus species. This suggests that genetic correlations between JHE activities during different periods of development, which underlie these activity profiles, have been conserved since the divergence of the three Gryllus species.