Dietary effects on life history traits in a terrestrial isopod: The importance of evaluating maternal effects and trade-offs

Marco A. Lardies, Mauricio J. Carter, Francisco Bozinovic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)


Studies of life history aim to explain patterns in the evolution of reproductive investment, growth, and survival. Trade-offs between traits are a fundamental component of life history theory. In herbivorous arthropods life history traits are often responsive to variation in numerous environmental factors, especially diet quality. Using three artificial diets under controlled laboratory conditions, we examined changes in life history traits (i.e. growth rate, offspring number, offspring size, incubation period), trade-offs between traits, and maternal effect on the growth rate of offspring, in the common woodlouse (terrestrial isopod), Porcellio laevis. The high protein diet had significant impacts on offspring production, triggering a smaller-sized offspring, and demonstrating a trade-off between these last two traits. The high carbohydrate diet seldom exerted a significant effect on incubation period. The quality of dietary items evidently has important consequences on the life history of the mother and, thus, on offspring growth; the directions of these effects, however, were opposite. Mothers fed diets with high protein concentrations presented significant maternal effects, measured as offspring growth rate during later ontogeny. Our results support the notion that protein, rather than carbohydrate, concentrations in the diet limit herbivorous arthropods, and have significant consequences on life history traits, as was seen for P. laevis. Clearly, the change in phenotypic correlations between incubation period and offspring number from negative to positive is an empirical demonstration of the context dependence of life history trait trade-offs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)387-395
Number of pages9
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2004


  • Food quality
  • Herbivores
  • Life history
  • Maternal effects
  • Terrestrial isopod

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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