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Short life cycles in insects and mites1

  • H.V. Danks (a1)

Abstract

Under favourable conditions some species of insects and mites complete development very quickly. This paper considers species with a mean minimum generation time of 15 days or less and tabulates developmental data for many sample species. Such species belong chiefly to a limited number of taxa of small size, notably aphids and several families of mites and parasitoid Hymenoptera. Characteristics of these taxa are reviewed. Even in families containing many species with rapid life cycles, normally many other species lack such rapid development. Very short life cycles depend on phylogeny, strain, rapid development in all stages, small size, rich food, and other habitat features including high temperatures. Within this framework, life cycles are accelerated by reducing elements requiring the investment of resources (size, fecundity, longevity, structural complexity), eliminating instars and even life stages, accelerating development (through lower requirements especially of heat, heat gain by adaptations such as basking, and rapid reproduction), and choosing the most suitable habitats and microhabitats from those available. Mean minimum generation times in insects and mites with coincident adaptations of this sort can be as short as 4 days. Notwithstanding the advantages of rapid development in maximizing the intrinsic rate of natural increase (and hence fitness), most species cannot achieve the highest rates of development. They are constrained not only by resources and intrinsic physiological or phylogenetic patterns but also by variability of conditions and seasonality that can be survived only by interpolating delays or resistant stages.

Sous des conditions favorables, certains insectes et acariens complètent leur développement très rapidement. Il est question ici d'espèces qui ont une durée de génération minimale moyenne de 15 jours ou moins et on y trouve des compilations des données de développement pour plusieurs espèces choisies. La plupart de ces espèces appartiennent à un nombre réduit de taxons de petite taille corporelle, particulièrement des pucerons et plusieurs familles d'acariens et d'hyménoptères parasitoïdes. Les caractéristiques de ces taxons sont passés en revue. Même dans les familles qui contiennent plusieurs espèces à cycle biologique rapide, il y a normalement beaucoup d'autres espèces qui n'ont pas ce développement rapide. Les cycles biologiques très courts dépendent de la phylogénie, de la race, d'un développement rapide à tous les stades, d'une taille réduite, d'une nourriture riche et d'autres caractéristiques du milieu, dont des températures élevées. Dans ce cadre, l'accélération du cycle se fait par la réduction des éléments qui requièrent un investissement de ressources (taille, fécondité, longévité, complexité structurelle), l'élimination de stades ou mêmes d'étapes du cycle, l'accélération du développement (par des exigences réduites particulièrement de chaleur, l'acquisition de chaleur par des comportements tels que l'exposition au soleil et la reproduction rapide) et le choix des habitats et des microhabitats les plus appropriés parmi ceux qui sont disponibles. Les durées de génération minimales moyennes chez les insectes et les acariens qui possèdent des combinaisons d'adaptations de ce type peuvent être aussi courtes que 4 jours. Malgré les avantages du développement rapide pour augmenter le taux intrinsèque d'accroissement naturel (et ainsi la fitness), la plupart des espèces n'arrivent pas à atteindre les taux les plus rapides. Elles en sont empêchées non seulement par le manque de ressources et par leurs taux physiologiques et phylogénétiques intrinsèques, mais aussi par la variabilité des conditions et par les variations saisonnières qui exigent des animaux l'insertion dans leur cycle de délais ou de stades résistants pour assurer leur survie.

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