Fecundity, lifespan and egg mass in butterflies: Effects of male-derived nutrients and female size

K. S. Oberhauser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Scopus citations


1. Effects of larval reserves and nutrients received as adults on fecundity and lifespan in female Danaus plexippus (the Monarch Butterfly) were measured to determine the relative importance of different sources of nutrients for reproduction and somatic maintenance. 2. Egg-laying lifespan was correlated with female size but not with the amount of male-derived nutrients or adult food concentration. 3. Lifetime fecundity was higher when females received a large first spermatophore, but was not affected by female size when lifespan was controlled or by adult food concentration. 4. At the end of their lives, females contained unlaid eggs and retained, on average, 88% of their initial mass. This proportion was unchanged in two years, although mean egg-laying lifespan varied from 22.5 to 28.7 days. 5. Egg mass decreased over the female lifespan, and was correlated with female size 6. These results suggest that larval reserves are more important for somatic maintenance than adult income, but that the protein-rich nutrients received front males contribute to egg production. This supports theoretical predictions and empirical studies of other Lepidoptera showing that larval reserves are less likely to affect fecundity when the adult income can contribute substantially to egg production.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)166-175
Number of pages10
JournalFunctional Ecology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • Danaus plexippus
  • Lepidoptera
  • Monarch Butterflies
  • paternal investment
  • spermatophores


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