Sex differences in phenotypic plasticity of a mechanism that controls body size: Implications for sexual size dimorphism

R. Craig Stillwell, Goggy Davidowitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

32 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The degree and/or direction of sexual size dimorphism (SSD) varies considerably among species and among populations within species. Although this variation is in part genetically based, much of it is probably due to the sexes exhibiting differences in body size plasticity. Here, we use the hawkmoth Manduca sexta, to test the hypothesis that moths reared on different diet qualities and at different temperatures will exhibit sex-specific body size plasticity. In addition, we explore the proximate mechanisms that potentially create sex-specific plasticity by examining three physiological variables known to regulate body size in this insect: the growth rate, the critical weight (which measures the cessation of juvenile hormone secretion from the corpora allata) and the interval to cessation of growth (ICG; which measures the time interval between the critical weight and the secretion of the ecdysteroids that regulate pupation and metamorphosis). We found that peak larval mass of males and females did not exhibit sex-specific plasticity in response to diet or temperature. However, the sexes did exhibit sex-specific plasticity in the mechanism that controls size; males and females exhibited sex-specific plasticity in the growth rate and the critical weight in response to both diet and temperature, whereas the ICG only exhibited sex-specific plasticity in response to diet. Our results suggest it is important for the sexes to maintain the same degree of SSD across environments and that this is accomplished by the sexes exhibiting differential sensitivity of the physiological factors that determine body size to environmental variation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3819-3826
Number of pages8
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Volume277
Issue number1701
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 22 2010

Fingerprint

dimorphism
phenotypic plasticity
Body Size
gender differences
Sex Characteristics
Plasticity
plasticity
body size
Nutrition
gender
diet
Diet
secretion
Weights and Measures
Temperature
Ecdysteroids
Juvenile Hormones
pupation
Growth
temperature

Keywords

  • Body size
  • Development
  • Manduca sexta
  • Physiology
  • Plasticity
  • Sexual dimorphism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Medicine(all)

Cite this

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abstract = "The degree and/or direction of sexual size dimorphism (SSD) varies considerably among species and among populations within species. Although this variation is in part genetically based, much of it is probably due to the sexes exhibiting differences in body size plasticity. Here, we use the hawkmoth Manduca sexta, to test the hypothesis that moths reared on different diet qualities and at different temperatures will exhibit sex-specific body size plasticity. In addition, we explore the proximate mechanisms that potentially create sex-specific plasticity by examining three physiological variables known to regulate body size in this insect: the growth rate, the critical weight (which measures the cessation of juvenile hormone secretion from the corpora allata) and the interval to cessation of growth (ICG; which measures the time interval between the critical weight and the secretion of the ecdysteroids that regulate pupation and metamorphosis). We found that peak larval mass of males and females did not exhibit sex-specific plasticity in response to diet or temperature. However, the sexes did exhibit sex-specific plasticity in the mechanism that controls size; males and females exhibited sex-specific plasticity in the growth rate and the critical weight in response to both diet and temperature, whereas the ICG only exhibited sex-specific plasticity in response to diet. Our results suggest it is important for the sexes to maintain the same degree of SSD across environments and that this is accomplished by the sexes exhibiting differential sensitivity of the physiological factors that determine body size to environmental variation.",
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