Date of Award

Spring 6-2023

Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis

Degree Name

B.S. in Biological Sciences

Organizational Unit

College of Natural Science and Mathematics, Biological Sciences

First Advisor

Shannon M. Murphy


Performance, Hyphantria cunea, Host plant, Generalism


The environment or experiences of a parent generation can impact the fitness of the next generation, a phenomenon known as parental effects. The parental diet, for example, can have consequences for their offspring who may perform better or worse on the same diet. Dietary specialists are often the focus of studies of parental effects due to diet because a narrow diet breadth suggests that the offspring environment may be predictable. Dietary generalists, in contrast, are less often studied regarding parental effects and this may be because their wide diet breadth makes the future environment less predictable.

We investigated whether parental effects exist in a generalist herbivore, fall webworm (Hyphantria cunea, hereafter FW), by testing if larval development and adult fitness depended on the host plant on which the parental generation was reared. While FW is a dietary generalist as a species, this generalism only manifests at a population level; individual larvae are functionally monophagous since they complete their development on the plant on which their mother lays her eggs. Female FW moths do not disperse far after eclosion, so oviposition likely occurs on the same host plant on which the mother developed as a larva. Therefore, FW is an ideal study system to test for parental effects in a dietary generalist. We found that FW parents reared on a low-quality diet can negatively impact offspring fitness, but that FW larval diet is more important than FW parental diet. However, we did not find any evidence that FW parents reared on a specific host plant “primed” their offspring to do well on the parent’s host plant. We provide insight into the parental effects of diet in FW and the potential implications for reduced lifetime fitness when a low-quality host plant is selected as an oviposition site.

Copyright Date


Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Emma J. Sellers


Received from author

File Format



English (eng)


18 pgs

File Size

336 KB