Articles

Migration Strategies of Insects

Science  24 Mar 1972:
Vol. 175, Issue 4028, pp. 1327-1335
DOI: 10.1126/science.175.4028.1327

Abstract

Physiological and ecological results from a variety of species are consistent with what seem to be valid general statements concerning insect migration. These are as follows: (i)During migration locomotory functions are enhanced and vegetative functions such as feeding and reproduction are suppressed. (ii) Migration usually occurs prereproductively in the life of the adult insect (the oogenesis-flight syndrome). (iii)Since migrant individuals are usually prereproductive, their reproductive values, and hence colonizing abilities, are at or near maximum. (iv) Migrants usually reside in temporary habitats. (v)Migrants have a high potential for population increase, r, which is also advantageous for colonizers. (vi)Both the physiological and ecological parameters of migration are modifiable by environmental factors (that is, phenotypically modifiable)to suit the prevailing conditions. Taken together, these criteria establish a comprehensive theory and adumbrate the basic strategy for migrant insects. This basic strategy is modified to suit the ecological requirements of individual species. Comparative studies of these modifications are of considerable theoretical and practical interest, the more so since most economically important insects are migrants.

No satisfactory general statements can as yet be made with respect to the genotype and migration. Certainly we expect colonizing populiations to possess genotypes favoring a high r, but genotypic variation in r depends on the heritabilities of life table statistics, and such measurements are yet to be made (10, 53). The fact that flight duration can be increased by appropriate selection in Oncopeltus fasciatus, and the demonstration of additive genetic variance for this trait in Lygaeus kalmii, suggest that heritability studies of migratory behavior would also be worth pursuing. Most interesting of course, will be possible genetic correlations between migration and life history parameters. Also, migration often transports genotypes across long distances with considerable mixing of populations. An understanding of its operation therefore carries with it implications for population genetics, zoogeography, and evolutionary theory.

Finally, at least parts of the above general theory would seem to be applicable to forms other than insects. Bird and insect migrations, for example, are in many respects ecologically and physiologically similar. Birds, like insects, emphasize locomotory. as opposed to vegetative functions during long-distance flight; the well-known Zugenruhe or migratory restlessness is a case in point. Further, many birds migrateat nigt at a time when they would ordinarily roost(vegetative activity). Because their life spans exceed single seasons, bird migrants are not prereproductive in the same sense that insect migrants are, and hence reproductive values do not have the same meaning(but note that some insects are also interreproductive migrants). The situaion is complicated further by the fact that in many birds adult survivorship is virtually independent of age so that colonizing ability tends to be also (10, 54). Nevertheless, birds arrive on their nesting grounds in reproductive condition with the result that migration is a colonizing episode. It is also phenotypically modifiable by environmental factors, some of which, for example, photoperiod, influence insects as well (55). The similarities between birds and insects thus seem sufficient to indicate, at least provisionally, that the theory developed for insects applies also to birds with appropriate modifications for longer life span and more complex social behavior; comparisons between insects and fish (56) lead to the same conclusion. In birds especially, and also in other forms, various functions accessory to migration such as reproductive endocrinology, energy budgets, and orientation mechanisms have been studied extensively (55, 56). But there is need in vertebrates for more data andtheoy on the ecology and physiology of migratory behavior per se in order tobetter understand its evolution and its role in ecosystem function (5, 57). Migration in any animal cannot be understood until viewed in its entirety as a physiological, behavioral, and ecological syndrome.

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