Environmental conditions experienced early in ontogeny often have an enormous influence on the developmental trajectory and life-history taken by animals. In many cases, phenotypic plasticity allows an adaptive adjustment of behaviour, morphology or physiology. Here, we concentrate on those traits that are initially plastic but become fixed at some point in an animal's lifetime (so-called irreversible phenotypic plasticity). We will use the lesser wax moth, Achroia grisella, as a model species. To quantify the effects of larval density and food on metabolic rate and behaviour of the adult moths, larvae will be kept in different densities on diets differing in quality and quantity. Adults will be tested for their behavioural phenotype and their metabolic rate to measure the effects of these treatments. Among other traits, we will measure predator avoidance behaviours to determine the location of individuals on the bold-shy axis. Our aim is to examine, whether the moths adaptively alter their behaviour and their metabolic rate in response to environmental conditions experienced early in life. We will complement this experimental approach with theoretical modelling focused on the evolution of phenotype plasticity that will incorporate the findings of the experiments.
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