Trophic eggs compensate for poor offspring feeding capacity in a subsocial burrower bug

Narumi Baba, Mantaro Hironaka, Takahiro Hosokawa, Hiromi Mukai, Shintaro Nomakuchi, Takatoshi Ueno

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Various animals produce inviable eggs or egg-like structures called trophic eggs, which are presumed to be an extended maternal investment for the offspring. However, there is little knowledge about the ecological or physiological constraints associated with their evolutionary origin. Trophic eggs of the seminivorous subsocial burrower bug (Canthophorus niveimarginatus) have some unique characteristics. Trophic eggs are obligate for nymphal survival, and firstinstar nymphs die without them. To identify the cause of nymphal death, we hypothesized that first-instar nymphs starve to death because they cannot feed on anything but trophic eggs. Although first-instar nymphs fed on artificially exposed endosperm did survive, nymphs that were provided with intact seed were not able to penetrate the seed vessel and starved to death. Another hypothesis that trophic eggs play a role in transferring the midgut symbiont, essential for survival in heteropteran bugs, from mother to offspring was rejected because almost all nymphs had retained the symbiont without feeding on trophic eggs. These results suggest that poor feeding capacity of the offspring is the cause of nymphal death, and the important constraint that promotes the evolution of the curious trophic egg system in C. niveimarginatus.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)194-196
Number of pages3
JournalBiology Letters
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 23 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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