Host-associated fitness trade-offs do not limit the evolution of diet breadth in the small milkweed bug Lygaeus kalmii (Hemiptera: Lygaeidae)

Charles W. Fox, Roy L. Caldwell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Theoretical models of evolution in a temporally variable environment predict that genotypes with low variance in fitness across generations will be favored. When host use varies temporally and fitness trade-offs exist among hosts, such that an increase in performance on one host results in a correlated decrease on the other, selection for low variance in fitness across generations will favor genotypes which are generalists. Before predictions such as this can be extended to natural herbivore populations, however, it is necessary to understand the extent to which performance trade-offs limit simultaneous adaptation to multiple hosts. The experiment reported here compares two populations of the common milkweed bug, Lygaeus kalmii (Hemiptera: Lygaeidae) which differ in patterns of host usage. One population is largely restricted to milkweed (Asclepias spp.) when milkweed seeds are available, but becomes a scavenger on a large assortment of available seeds when milkweed seeds are unavailable. The second population is restricted largely to dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), without access to milkweed. We examine these populations to test for host-associated genetic trade-offs between specialization on dandelion (Taraxacum) and two species of milkweed, Asclepias fascicularis, which is low in cardiac glycoside content, and A. speciosa, which is high in cardiac glycoside content. Despite the difference in patterns of host use of the two L. kalmii populations, the populations did not differ in their performance on any of the host plants. Within each population, bugs performed nearly as well on each host, except that bugs had significantly lower survivorship on dandelion than on either milkweed species. Trade-offs in performance among hosts were not present in either population: estimated genetic correlations across hosts were strongly positive. The inability of this study to detect host-associated fitness trade-offs is consistent with most published data on this topic.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)382-389
Number of pages8
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 1994


  • Genotype-environment interactions
  • Insect-plant interactions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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