Eur. J. Entomol. 110 (4): 627-632, 2013 | DOI: 10.14411/eje.2013.085

Causes of polymorphic melanism and its thermoregulatory function in a parasitoid wasp Meteorus pulchricornis (Hymenoptera: Braconidae)

Yosuke ABE, Takuma NISHIMURA, Kaoru MAETO*
Graduate School of Agricultural Science, Kobe University, Kobe, Hyogo 657-8501, Japan

We investigated the variation in body colour and its thermoregulatory function in Meteorus pulchricornis (Wesmael) (Hymenoptera: Braconidae), a parasitoid wasp of Spodoptera and other free-living lepidopteran larvae. We show that the body colour of adult wasps darkens when cocoons are kept at low temperatures. The range in the variation in colour, however, differs for different parts of the body and among uniparental (thelytokous) strains. This melanism enables these wasps to attain a body temperature in sunshine up to 2C. Moreover, this small gain in body temperature can markedly increase the flight activity of wasps at low ambient temperatures. We conclude that the variation in body colour that resulted from rearing the cocoons at different temperatures enable the wasps to adapt to changing thermal environments. The ecological significance of the difference in the degree of melanism of the different strains is discussed.

Keywords: Hymenoptera, Braconidae, Meteorus pulchricornis, parasitic wasp, body colour variation, thermal melanism hypothesis, reaction norm, solar radiation, body temperature, flight activity

Accepted: April 15, 2013; Prepublished online: October 1, 2013; Published: December 1, 2013

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