One clutch or two clutches? Fitness correlates of coexisting alternative female life-histories in the European earwig

  • Meunier J
  • Wong J
  • Gómez Y
 et al. 
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Whether to reproduce once or multiple times (semelparity vs. iteroparity) is a major life-history decision that organisms have to take. Mode of parity is usually con- sidered a species characteristic. However, recent models suggested that population prop- erties or condition-dependent fitness payoffs could help to maintain both life-history tactics within populations. In arthropods, semelparity was also hypothesised to be a critical pre- adaptation for the evolution of maternal care, semelparous females being predicted to provide more care due to the absence of costs on future reproduction. The aim of this study was to characterize potential fitness payoffs and levels of maternal care in semel- and itero- parous females of the European earwig Forficula auricularia. Based on 15 traits measured in 494 females and their nymphs, our results revealed that iteroparous females laid their first clutch earlier, had more eggs in their first clutch, gained more weight during the 2 weeks following hatching of the first clutch, but produced eggs that developed more slowly than semelparous females. Among iteroparous females, the sizes of first and second clutches were significantly and positively correlated, indicating no investment trade-off between reproductive events. Iteroparous females also provided more food than semelparous ones, a result contrasting with predictions that iteroparity is incompatible with the evolution of maternal care. Finally, a controlled breeding experiment reported full mating compatibility among offspring from females of the two modes of parity, confirming that both types of females belong to one single species. Overall, these results indicate that alternative modes of parity represent coexisting life-history tactics that are likely to be condition-dependent and associated with offspring development and specific levels of maternal care in earwigs.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Alternative reproductive tactics
  • Coexistence
  • Forficula auricularia
  • Iteroparity
  • Parental care
  • Semelparity

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