The diapause switch : Evolution of alternative developmental pathways in a butterfly
Sammanfattning: Diapause decision is a classic example of a threshold switch mechanism with cascading effects on morphology, behaviour and life-history traits. This thesis addresses the downstream effects of the insect diapause switch, with the main focus on pathway-specific regulation of life-history traits, using the speckled wood butterfly (Pararge aegeria) as a study species. The ultimate pathway decision is made towards the end of larval development and allows the larvae to take into account up-to-date information from the environment about future conditions (Paper I, IV). However, already from an early point in development the larvae are sensitive to environmental cues and continuously adjust their growth trajectory in accordance to current information about the environmental conditions to be expected in future (Paper IV). An asymmetry in the ability to change from one developmental pathway to another at a late point in larval development suggests that the diapause and the direct pathway require different physiological preparations (Paper IV). Pathway-specific regulation of traits downstream of the diapause switch is maintained by ongoing selection. When the direct pathway is not regularly expressed, as with a shift from bivoltinism to univoltinism, relaxed selection on the unexpressed pathway leads to genetic drift and loss of protandry (Paper II, III). Natural populations display local adaptations in the diapause switch with an increase in critical daylengths as there is a gradual shift from bivoltinism to univoltinism (Paper III). This thesis highlights two aspects of the diapause decision, the determination of how and when this decision is made as well as the way the resulting pathways are moulded by selection in order to produce adaptive seasonal polyphenism in life-history traits.
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