Colonization of a new host by a seed-feeding beetle: Genetic variation, maternal experience, and the effect of an alternate host

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12 Scopus citations


Human introductions of non-native plants, and subsequent colonization of these plants by herbivores, can be used to study the ecological processes influencing the evolution of insect diet. The seed beetle Stator limbatus has colonized non-native Texas ebony (Ebenopsis ebano) that is grown as an ornamental in Arizona (USA). Texas ebony is not used as a host by S. limbatus where the beetle and plant are naturally sympatric but is used by the sister species to S. limbatus (S. beali). Lines created in an artificial selection experiment were used to test for genetic variation in the ability of S. limbatus larvae to survive on Texas ebony and to examine the role that a native host (blue paloverde, P. florida) plays in facilitating the colonization of Texas ebony. Genetic variation in survival on Texas ebony was present in this S. limbatus population, but the major factor affecting survival was maternal experience with the alternate host - females that encountered paloverde during egg maturation produced offspring that survived > 10-times better on Texas ebony as compared with offspring of females that did not encounter paloverde. This difference was because paloverde stimulated a plastic change in egg composition. Absence of paloverde in the community will reduce larval survival and limit the ability of S. limbatus populations to incorporate Texas ebony into their range of suitable hosts. Blue paloverde provides a stepping stone for colonization of Texas ebony; exposure of mothers to P. florida seeds during egg maturation can increase offspring survival enough that populations do not go extinct before evolving increased survival on the new host, Texas ebony.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)239-247
Number of pages9
JournalAnnales Zoologici Fennici
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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