- BIOGECO, INRA, Bordeaux, France
- Agroecology, Herbivory, Meta-analyses
Diapause is not selected as a bet-hedging strategy in insects: a meta-analysis of reaction norm shapes
When to diapause or not to diapause? Winter predictability is not the answer
Winter is a harsh season for many organisms that have to cope with food shortage and potentially lethal temperatures. Many species have evolved avoidance strategies. Among them, diapause is a resistance stage many insects use to overwinter. For an insect, it is critical to avoid lethal winter temperatures and thus to initiate diapause before winter comes, while making the most of autumn suitable climatic conditions [1,2]. Several cues can be used to appreciate that winter is coming, including day length and temperature . But climate changes, temperatures rise and become more variable from year to year, which imposes strong pressure upon insect phenology . How can insects adapt to changes in the mean and variance of winter onset?
In this paper, Jens Joschinski and Dries Bonte  address this question by using a well conducted meta-analysis of 458 diapause reaction norms obtained from 60 primary studies. They first ask first if insect mean diapause timing is tuned to match winter onset. They further ask if insects adapt to climatic unpredictability through a bet-hedging strategy by playing it safe and avoid risk (conservative bet-hedging) or on the contrary by avoiding to put all their eggs in one basket and spread the risk among their offspring (diversified bet-hedging). From published papers, the authors extracted data on mean diapause timing and information on latitude from which they retrieved day length inducing diapause, the date of winter onset and the day length at winter onset.
They found a positive correlation between latitude and the day length inducing diapause. On the contrary they found positive but (very) weak correlation between the date of winter onset and the date of diapause, thus indicating that diapause timing is not as optimally adapted to local environments as expected, particularly at high latitudes. They only found weak correlations between climate unpredictability and variability in diapause timing, and no correlation between climate unpredictability and deviation from optimal diapause timing. Together, these findings go against the hypothesis that insects use diversified or conservative bet-hedging strategies to cope with uncertainty in climatic conditions.
This is what makes the study thought provoking: the results do not match the theory well. Not because of a lack of data or a narrow scope, but because diapause is a complex trait that is determined by a large array of physiological and ecological factors . Determining what are these factors is of particular interest in the face of the current climate change. This study shows what does not determine the timing of insect diapause. Researchers now know where to look at to improve our understanding of this key aspect of insect adaptation to climatic conditions.
 Dyck, H. V., Bonte, D., Puls, R., Gotthard, K., and Maes, D. (2015). The lost generation hypothesis: could climate change drive ectotherms into a developmental trap? Oikos, 124(1), 54–61. doi: 10.1111/oik.02066
 Gallinat, A. S., Primack, R. B., and Wagner, D. L. (2015). Autumn, the neglected season in climate change research. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 30(3), 169–176. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2015.01.004
 Tougeron, K. (2019). Diapause research in insects: historical review and recent work perspectives. Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata, 167(1), 27–36. doi: 10.1111/eea.12753
 Bale, J. S., and Hayward, S. a. L. (2010). Insect overwintering in a changing climate. Journal of Experimental Biology, 213(6), 980–994. doi: 10.1242/jeb.037911
 Joschinski, J., and Bonte, D. (2020). Diapause is not selected as a bet-hedging strategy in insects: a meta-analysis of reaction norm shapes. BioRxiv, 752881, ver. 3 recommended and peer-reviewed by PCI Ecology. doi: 10.1101/752881
Intraspecific difference among herbivore lineages and their host-plant specialization drive the strength of trophic cascades
Tell me what you’ve eaten, I’ll tell you how much you’ll eat (and be eaten)
Tritrophic interactions have a central role in ecological theory and applications [1-3]. Particularly, systems comprised of plants, herbivores and predators have historically received wide attention given their ubiquity and economic importance . Although ecologists have long aimed to understand the forces that govern alternating ecological effects at successive trophic levels , several key open questions remain (at least partially) unanswered . In particular, the analysis of complex food webs has questioned whether ecosystems can be viewed as a series of trophic chains [7,8]. Moreover, whether systems are mostly controlled by top-down (trophic cascades) or bottom-up processes remains an open question .
Traditionally, studies have addressed how species diversity at different food chain compartments affect the strength and direction of trophic cascades . For example, many studies have tested whether biological control was more efficient with more than one species of natural enemies [10-12]. Much less attention has been given to the role of within-species variation in shaping trophic cascades . In particular, whereas the impact of trait variation within species of plants or predators on successive trophic levels has been recently addressed [14,15], the impact of intraspecific herbivore variation is in its infancy (but see ). This is at odds with the resurgent acknowledgment of the importance of individual variation for several ecological processes operating at higher levels of biological organization .
Sources of variation within species can come in many flavours. In herbivores, striking ecological variation can be found among populations occurring on different host plants, which become genetically differentiated, thus forming host races [18,19]. Curiously, the impact of variation across host races on the strength of trophic cascades has, to date, not been explored. This is the gap that the manuscript by Sentis and colleagues  fills. They experimentally studied a curious tri-trophic system where the primary consumer, pea aphids, specializes in different plant hosts, creating intraspecific variation across biotypes. Interestingly, there is also ecological variation across lineages from the same biotype. The authors set up experimental food chains, where pea aphids from different lineages and biotypes were placed in their universal legume host (broad bean plants) and then exposed to a voracious but charming predator, ladybugs. The full factorial design of this experiment allowed the authors to measure vertical effects of intraspecific variation in herbivores on both plant productivity (top-down) and predator individual growth (bottom-up).
The results nicely uncover the mechanisms by which intraspecific differences in herbivores precipitates vertical modulation in food chains. Herbivore lineage and host-plant specialization shaped the strength of trophic cascades, but curiously these effects were not modulated by density-dependence. Further, ladybugs consuming pea aphids from different lineages and biotypes grew at distinct rates, revealing bottom-up effects of intraspecific variation in herbivores.
These findings are novel and exciting for several reasons. First, they show how intraspecific variation in intermediate food chain compartments can simultaneously reverberate both top-down and bottom-up effects. Second, they bring an evolutionary facet to the understanding of trophic cascades, providing valuable insights on how genetically differentiated populations play particular ecological roles in food webs. Finally, Sentis and colleagues’ findings  have critical implications well beyond their study systems. From an applied perspective, they provide an evident instance on how consumers’ evolutionary specialization matters for their role in ecosystems processes (e.g. plant biomass production, predator conversion rate), which has key consequences for biological control initiatives and invasive species management. From a conceptual standpoint, their results ignite the still neglected value of intraspecific variation (driven by evolution) in modulating the functioning of food webs, which is a promising avenue for future theoretical and empirical studies.
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 Sentis, A., Bertram, R., Dardenne, N., Simon, J.-C., Magro, A., Pujol, B., Danchin, E. and J.-L. Hemptinne (2020) Intraspecific difference among herbivore lineages and their host-plant specialization drive the strength of trophic cascades. bioRxiv, 722140, ver. 4 peer-reviewed and recommended by PCI Ecology. doi: 10.1101/722140