The developmental control of size in insects

Wiley Interdiscip Rev Dev Biol. Jan-Feb 2014;3(1):113-34. doi: 10.1002/wdev.124. Epub 2013 Jul 25.


The mechanisms that control the sizes of a body and its many parts remain among the great puzzles in developmental biology. Why do animals grow to a species-specific body size, and how is the relative growth of their body parts controlled to so they grow to the right size, and in the correct proportion with body size, giving an animal its species-characteristic shape? Control of size must involve mechanisms that somehow assess some aspect of size and are upstream of mechanisms that regulate growth. These mechanisms are now beginning to be understood in the insects, in particular in Manduca sexta and Drosophila melanogaster. The control of size requires control of the rate of growth and control of the cessation of growth. Growth is controlled by genetic and environmental factors. Insulin and ecdysone, their receptors, and intracellular signaling pathways are the principal genetic regulators of growth. The secretion of these growth hormones, in turn, is controlled by complex interactions of other endocrine and molecular mechanisms, by environmental factors such as nutrition, and by the physiological mechanisms that sense body size. Although the general mechanisms of growth regulation appear to be widely shared, the mechanisms that regulate final size can be quite diverse.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Size / genetics*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics
  • Drosophila melanogaster / growth & development
  • Ecdysone / genetics*
  • Insulin / genetics*
  • Larva / genetics
  • Larva / growth & development*
  • Manduca / genetics
  • Manduca / growth & development
  • Signal Transduction


  • Insulin
  • Ecdysone