Effects of variation in nutrition on male morph development in the bulb mite Rhizoglyphus robini.Exp Appl Acarol 2014; 64(2):159-70EA
In male dimorphic species, growth influences morph expression and thereby the reproductive success of males. However, how variation in nutritional conditions affects male morph development and whether males can compensate for lost growth is poorly known. Here, we performed an experiment where males of the bulb mite (Rhizoglyphus robini)-which are fighters, able to kill other mites, or benign scramblers-were offered high quality food during the larval stage, but food of high or low quality during the protonymph and tritonymph (=final) stage. When food quality was low during the latter two stages, males matured smaller, later and were more likely to be a scrambler than when food quality was high. We found no evidence for compensatory growth: when males had low quality food only during the protonymph stage, they matured at the same age, but grew at a slower rate and matured at a smaller size than males that had high quality food throughout ontogeny. Furthermore, males that experienced this transient period of low food quality were less likely to mature as a fighter. Interestingly, scrambler increase in body size during the protonymph and tritonymph stages was always lower than that of fighters. Given the strong link between adult size and fitness, combined with the different development times and life histories of the male morphs, the lack of ability to compensate for a transient period of food deprivation during ontogeny is likely to have consequences for the dynamics of bulb mite populations.