Alfredo Attisano

PhD student Alfredo Attisano.

Responses to decreased food resources in insects

University of Exeter

Insects can respond to food stress by reabsorbing oocytes (female gametes) and re-investing that energy into somatic (body cell) maintenance. Research has suggested that temperate populations, like populations found in Cornwall, are less well adapted to food stress than tropical populations. Species able to tolerate extreme conditions, including food stress, will have a competitive advantage in a changing climate.

University of Exeter PhD student Alfredo Attisano is examining whether populations of insects in Cornwall may show different patterns of adaptation to those found elsewhere in Europe. Studying the behavioural and physiological mechanisms that allow species to cope with difficult environmental conditions and how reabsorbing oocytes can play a key role in shaping the life history strategies undertaken by insects.

Alfredo said: “Every organism has to deal with stressful conditions. Likely climate change will lead to many variations in different environments, including the Cornish landscape. Understanding how insects will react to new emerging challenging conditions will allow us to predict their future distribution and the evolutionary mechanisms involved in dealing with these changes.”

Dissemination of this research will be of particular interest to land-use and horticultural sectors in Cornwall as climate change will undoubtedly lead to changes within various aspects of Cornish agriculture.

Future changes in crop pests may well affect the host plants in which they harbour; this could mean switching to agriculturally important plants as hosts. The research undertaken by Alfredo may be considered as a model system to study the potential impacts of climate change on invertebrate pest species.