We investigated one causal explanation for geographic variation in clutch size and aggregative feeding of the pipevine swallowtail, Battus philenor. Populations in California lay larger clutches than those in Texas, and larger feeding aggregations grow at an accelerated rate on the California host plant. Using reciprocal transplant experiments with larvae from California and Texas populations, we found that the benefit of increased growth rate associated with feeding in larger groups occurred only on the California host plant and was observed for larvae from both populations. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that larger clutch size and aggregative feeding are adaptations to characteristics of the California host plant. Future studies on the evolution of clutch size and aggregative feeding of herbivorous insects should consider how these life-history traits affect host plant suitability.
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Vol. 58 • No. 2