Leaf abscission phenology of a scrub oak: Consequences for growth and survivorship of a leaf mining beetle

Kim J. Waddell, Charles W. Fox, Kenneth D. White, Timothy A. Mousseau

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Brachys tessellatus is a leaf-mining beetle that attacks Quercus laevis (turkey oak), a deciduous scrub oak in the fall line Sandhills of the southeastern United States. This oak species varies substantially in leaf abscission phenology. In the fall of 1994 we examined leaf abscission patterns at three sites in central South Carolina and found that leaves containing active miners abscised earlier than leaves without active miners. To quantify the effect of leaf abscission phenology on the survivorship and body size of leaf miners within the abscised leaves, we marked naturally and manually abscised leaves, left leaves on the ground to over-winter, and then collected leaves before beetles emerged the following spring. We found that beetles inside leaves that were abscised early in the season were more likely to be killed by predators, and that they produced smaller pupae than beetles within leaves abscised later in the season. We also evaluated the relationship between adult beetle body size and fecundity; body size of B. tessellatus is positively correlated with lifetime fecundity and daily oviposition rate indicating that effects of leaf-abscission phenology on beetle body size likely translate into effects on beetle fitness. We discuss how B. tessellatus has adapted to variation of leaf abscission phenology of oaks by evolving developmental plasticity that permits successful completion of larval development over a range of season lengths.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)251-258
Number of pages8
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2001

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements We thank Mary Ellen Czesak, Eileen Eliason, Stan Faeth, Dave Lincoln, Susan Mopper, Dan Potter, Udo Savalli, Peter Stiling, David Wethey, Staffan Lindgren and his discussion group at UNBC, and two anonymous reviewers for insightful comments on earlier versions of the manuscript. Financial support was provided in part by USDA-Cooperative State Research Service grant No. 9301887 and National Science Foundation grant Nos. DEB-9409004 to T.A. Mousseau and DEB-9807315 to C.W. Fox.


  • Body size
  • Early leaf abscission
  • Leaf mining beetle
  • Phenology
  • Variation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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