Insects From Eggs Lacking Nutrients

Stored nutrients are a major feature in typical insect eggs, but diverse insects have reduced amounts of yolk or lack it entirely. Obviously, if nutrients for embryonic development are not provided in eggs, they must come from another source. Two major alternate sources are the mother and other insects, which can serve as hosts for both embryonic and larval development.

Females that provide nutrients to their embryos, in addition to or instead of egg materials, are termed viviparous. The parthenogenetic aphids described earlier are viviparous: they produce first instars rather than eggs. Young aphid embryos shed their covering of follicle cells and break the strands of tissue that connect them to the germarium. Then, they absorb the necessary nutrients directly from the mother's body.

The viviparous Pacific beetle cockroach, Diploptera punctata, produces eggs with insufficient yolk to support complete embryonic development. During pregnancy, females make a supplementary protein, termed roach milk, that is taken up by embryos. Females in a few groups, such as the order Strepsiptera, are neotenous. Neotenic insects do not go through a full metamorphosis, and they reproduce during the larval stage. Strepsipteran females lack oviducts, so that eggs produced in the ovaries are released into the blood. The eggs can contain some, but insufficient amounts of yolk. To fertilize these eggs, sperm must move from the genital canal into the blood. When embryogenesis is complete, larvae use the genital canals to leave the mother's body.

Some parasitoids also develop inside other insects, but here the insect is the parasitized host. Female parasitoids that oviposit directly inside other insect eggs, larvae, or adults are likely to produce small eggs with little or no nutrients. The parasitoid embryos, lacking their own supply of nutrients, then use the host's body to supply materials for their own development.

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