In proovigenic parasitoids such as Leptopilina boulardi, the female emerges with a limited egg load and no further eggs are produced during its adult life. A female thus runs the risk of exhausting this limited supply of eggs before the end of her life. Given that the production of an egg is costly, what is the evolutionarily stable egg load at emergence? This question has attracted a lot of attention in the last decade. Here, we analyze a model that allows us to track both the evolution and the population dynamics of a solitary, proovigenic parasitoid. First, we show how host-parasitoid dynamics feedbacks on the evolution of parasitoid egg load. Second, we use this model to consider the situation in which the parasitoid can be infected by a virus that manipulates the oviposition behavior of the females. In particular, we model the effect of the LbFV virus in L. boulardi, a virus that is known to enhance its horizontal transmission by increasing superparasitism (i.e., the laying of eggs in a host already parasitized). Specifically, we model (1) the effect of the virus on parasitoid egg load strategies, and (2) the evolution of egg load manipulation by the virus. This analysis yields two alternative, yet not mutually exclusive, adaptive explanations for the observation that females infected by the virus harbor higher egg loads than uninfected females. Infected females could either respond plastically to the infection status, or be manipulated by the virus. Further experimental work is required to distinguish between these two hypotheses. In a broader context, we present a general theoretical framework that allows us to study the epidemiology, the evolution, the coevolution, and the evolution of manipulation of various reproductive strategies of parasitoids.
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Vol. 63 • No. 11