Maternal effects on offspring size in a natural population of the viviparous tsetse fly
English S., Cowen H., Garnett E., Hargrove JW.
1. Theory predicts that mothers should adaptively adjust reproductive investment depending on current reserves and future reproductive opportunities. Females in better intrinsic state, or with more resources, should invest more in current reproduction than those with fewer resources. Across the lifespan, investment may increase as future reproductive opportunities decline, yet may also decline with reductions in intrinsic state. 2. Across many species, larger mothers produce larger offspring, but there is no theoretical consensus on why this is so. This pattern may be driven by variation in maternal state such as nutrition, yet few studies measure both size and nutritional state or attempt to tease apart confounding effects of size and age. 3. Viviparous tsetse flies (Glossina species) offer an excellent system to explore patterns of reproductive investment: females produce large, single offspring sequentially over the course of their relatively long life. Thus, per-brood reproductive effort can be quantified by offspring size. 4. While most tsetse reproduction research has been conducted on laboratory colonies, maternal investment was investigated in this study using a unique field method where mothers were collected as they deposited larvae, allowing simultaneous mother-offspring measurements under natural conditions. 5. It was found that larger mothers and those with a higher fat content produced larger offspring, and there was a trend for older mothers to produce slightly larger offspring. 6. The present results highlight the importance of measuring maternal nutritional state, rather than size alone, when considering maternal investment in offspring. Implications for understanding vector population dynamics are also discussed.