Melanism has long been thought to be a habitat adaptation with a fitness cost. Here we reported a homozygous melanic strain (SEM) of Spodoptera exigua (Hübner) (Insecta: Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) established with black pupae spontaneously occurring within a typical laboratory population (SEW). The melanization is expressed globally, and only in the pupal stage. After pupation, the melanic SEM pupae gradually accumulate melanin to become completely black within 6â €‰hours, whereas the wild-type SEW pupae gradually turn yellow-brown. The melanic SEM strain exhibits faster development in all life stages, heavier pupa weight, more mating time, higher fecundity, and accordingly, higher net reproductive rate and population trend index. While no reproductive isolation was observed between the SEM and SEW strains, the mating times per female of the reciprocal crosses and the SEM intracrosses were significantly higher than those of the SEW intracrosses. This represents a rare case of melanization that has fitness gains, rather than costs. Analysis of the life-history traits of this case and 14 previously reported cases of insect melanism indicate that none of melanization origin, stage, space and variation type determining whether melanism will cause fitness gain or cost.
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