Papers in the Biological Sciences


Date of this Version



The Journal of Experimental Biology (2015) 218, 298-308. doi:10.1242/jeb.112888


© 2015. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd. Used by permission.


Although life-history trade-offs result from the differential acquisition and allocation of nutritional resources to competing physiological functions, many aspects of this topic remain poorly understood. Wing-polymorphic insects, which possess alternative morphs that trade off allocation to flight capability versus early reproduction, provide a good model system for exploring this topic. In this study, we used the wing-polymorphic cricket Gryllus firmus to test how expression of the flight capability versus reproduction trade-off was modified across a heterogeneous protein–carbohydrate nutritional landscape. Newly molted adult female long- and short-winged crickets were given one of 13 diets with different concentrations and ratios of protein and digestible carbohydrate; for each cricket, we measured consumption patterns, growth and allocation to reproduction (ovary mass) versus flight muscle maintenance (flight muscle mass and somatic lipid stores). Feeding responses in both morphs were influenced more by total macronutrient concentration than by protein–carbohydrate ratio, except at high-macronutrient concentration, where protein– carbohydrate balance was important. Mass gain tended to be greatest on protein-biased diets for both morphs, but was consistently lower across all diets for long-winged females. When long-winged females were fed high-carbohydrate foods, they accumulated greater somatic lipid stores; on high-protein foods, they accumulated greater somatic protein stores. Food protein–carbohydrate content also affected short-winged females (selected for early reproductive onset), which showed dramatic increases in ovary size, including ovarian stores of lipid and protein, on protein-biased foods. This is the first study to show how the concentration and ratio of dietary protein and carbohydrate affects consumption and allocation to key physiological features associated with the reproduction–dispersal life-history trade-off.