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Evolution. 2001 Apr;55(4):783-96.

Evolutionary dynamics of host-plant specialization: a case study of the tribe Nymphalini.

Author information

  • 1Department of Zoology, Stockholm University, Sweden. niklas.janz@zoologi.su.se

Abstract

Two general patterns that have emerged from the intense studies on insect-host plant associations are a predominance of specialists over generalists and a taxonomic conservatism in host-plant use. In most insect-host plant systems, explanations for these patterns must be based on biases in the processes of host colonizations, host shifts, and specialization, rather than cospeciation. In the present paper, we investigate changes in host range in the nymphalid butterfly tribe Nymphalini, using parsimony optimizations of host-plant data on the butterfly phylogeny. In addition, we performed larval establishment tests to search for larval capacity to feed and survive on plants that have been lost from the female egg-laying repertoire. Optimizations suggested an ancestral association with Urticaceae, and most of the tested species showed a capacity to feed on Urtica dioica regardless of actual host-plant use. In addition, there was a bias among the successful establishments on nonhosts toward plants that are used as hosts by other species in the Nymphalini. An increased likelihood of colonizing ancestral or related plants could also provide an alternative explanation for the observed pattern that some plant families appear to have been colonized independently several times in the tribe. We also show that there is no directionality in host range evolution toward increased specialization, that is, specialization is not a dead end. Instead, changes in host range show a very dynamic pattern.

PMID:
11392396
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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