Sex allocation and clutch size in parasitoid wasps that produce single-sex broods.
West SA., Flanagan KE., Godfray HC.
The parasitoid wasp genus Achrysocharoides (Eulophidae) is unusual in that many of its species lay male and female eggs in single-sex clutches. The average clutch size of female broods is always greater than that of male broods, and in some species male clutch size is always one. We constructed models that predicted that severely egg-limited wasps should produce equal numbers of male and female eggs while severely host-limited wasps should produce equal numbers of male and female broods (and hence an overall female-biased sex ratio). Theory is developed to predict clutch size and sex ratio across the complete spectrum of host and egg limitation. A comparison of 19 surveys of clutch composition in seven species of Achrysocharoides showed a general pattern of equal numbers of male and female broods with a female-biased sex ratio (suggesting host limitation) although with considerable heterogeneity amongst collections and with a number of cases of unexpectedly low frequencies of male broods. Using a previous estimate of the relationship between fitness and size in the field, we predicted the maximally productive (Lack) clutch size for female broods of Achrysocharoides zwoelferi to be three. Of clutches observed in nature, 95% were equal to or smaller in size than the predicted Lack clutch size. When we manipulated local host density in the field, and as predicted by our models, clutch size and the proportion of female broods of A. zwoelferi decreased as hosts became more common, but the absolute frequency of male clutches was lower than expected. Copyright 1998 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour.