Mechanisms and consequences of flight polyphenisms in an outbreaking bark beetle species

  • Author(s) / Creator(s)
  • Flight polyphenisms naturally occur as discrete or continuous traits in insects. Discrete flight polyphenisms include winged and wingless morphs, whereas continuous flight polyphenisms can take the form of short- or long-distance fliers. The mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae) exhibits polyphenic variation in flight distance but the consequences of this flight variation on life history strategies of beetles is unknown. This study assessed the effect of flight on two particular aspects of beetle biology: (1) an energetic trade-off between flight distance and host colonisation capacity; and (2) the relationship between flight distance and pheromone production. A 23 h flight treatment was applied to a subset of beetles using computer-linked flight mills. After flight treatment, both flown and unflown (control) beetles were given the opportunity to colonise bolts of host trees, and beetles that entered hosts were aerated to collect pheromone. A trade-off occurred between initiation of host colonisation and percentage body mass lost during flight, which indicates energy use during flight affects host acceptance in female mountain pine beetles. Furthermore, production of the aggregation pheromone trans-verbenol by female beetles was influenced by both percentage body mass lost during flight and flight distance. Male production of exo-brevicomin was affected by beetle condition following flight but not by the energy used during flight. These novel results give new insight into the polyphenic flight behaviour of mountain pine beetles. Flight variation is adaptive by acting to maintain population levels through safe and risky host colonisation strategies. These findings suggest mechanisms that facilitate the extremities of the continuous flight polyphenism spectrum. These opposing mechanisms appear to maintain the high variation in flight exhibited by this species.

  • Date created
  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Type of Item
    Article (Draft / Submitted)
  • DOI
  • License
    Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International
  • Language
  • Citation for previous publication
    • Jones, K.L., Rajabzadeh, R., Ishangulyyeva, G., Erbilgin, N., Evenden, M.L. 2020. Mechanisms and consequences of flight polyphenisms in an outbreaking bark beetle species. Journal of Experimental Biology 223(12): jeb219642.