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Ovipositing females are predicted to select host-plants that will maximise offspring survival and fitness. Yet hosts often differ in the component of larval fitness affected so host-selection often involves a trade-off between short development times and large size and high fecundity of offspring. If host-species can directly affect development rates and body size, and if there are gender differences in resource allocation during development, there can be different sex-specific selection pressures associated with different hosts. Using a Madeiran population of the speckled wood butterfly Pararge aegeria (L.) as the model species gender differences in larval development and size were examined in response to the hosts Brachypodium sylvaticum, Holcus lanatus and Poa annua. It was observed that male and female P. aegeria larvae differed, with their responses dependent on the host species. These results would suggest that oviposition behavior is a complex process, and use of multiple hosts may have evolved to balance the conflicting needs of male and female larvae. Co-evolution of host selection and oviposition behaviors may help to balance the differing performance needs of offspring.
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