Faculté des sciences

Geographic variation in oviposition choice of a leaf beetle: the relationship between host plant ranking, specificity, and motivation

Gotthard, Karl ; Margraf, Nicolas ; Rahier, Martine

In: Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata, 2007, vol. 110, no. 3, p. 217-224

The degree of adaptation of herbivorous insects to their local flora is an important component of the evolutionary processes that lead to host plant specialization in insects. In this study we investigated geographic variations in the oviposition preference of the leaf beetle Oreina elongata Suffrian (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae: Chrysolini) in relation to differences in host plant... Plus

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    Summary
    The degree of adaptation of herbivorous insects to their local flora is an important component of the evolutionary processes that lead to host plant specialization in insects. In this study we investigated geographic variations in the oviposition preference of the leaf beetle Oreina elongata Suffrian (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae: Chrysolini) in relation to differences in host plant specialization, in the field. We focused on the mechanisms of host choice and asked whether potential differences among populations are due to variations in host plant ranking and/or host plant specificity. We performed a combination of simultaneous choice and sequential no-choice experiments with two of the major host plants of the beetle [Cirsium spinosissimum (L.) and Adenostyles alliariae (Gouan) (Asteraceae)]. The results suggested that spatial variation in host plant specialization has resulted in differences between populations in some aspects of the oviposition choice of O. elongata, while other aspects seem unaffected. We found no variation in host plant ranking among populations, as estimated in simultaneous choice tests. In contrast, the sequential no-choice test indicated that host plant specificity was lower in a population that never encountered the highest ranked plant in the field. This finding agreed with our expectations, and we discuss our results in relation to the commonly used hierarchical threshold model. The results suggested that the mechanism for the differences in specificity is the variation among populations in the general motivation to oviposit, rather than quantitative differences in relative preference for the two hosts. We stress that it is essential to establish which of the two mechanisms is most important, as it will affect the probability of evolutionary change in host plant ranking.