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Evolution. 2006 Sep;60(9):1859-67.

Local maladaptation in the soft scale insect Saissetia coffeae (Hemiptera: Coccidae).

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  • 1Biology Department, Gustavus Adolphus College, 800 West College Avenue, St. Peter, Minnesota 56082, USA.


Local adaptation has often been documented in herbivorous insects. The potential for local maladaptation in phytophagous insects, however, has not been widely considered. I performed a two-generation reciprocal cross-transplant experiment with the generalist soft scale insect Saissetia coffeae (Hemiptera: Coccidae) on two common species of host plants in rain forest habitat in Costa Rica. In this system, S. coffeae showed significant local maladaptation at the level of the host species. Lineages originally collected from Witheringia enjoyed a strong advantage over those collected from Lomariopsis when both sets of lineages were placed on Lomariopsis; however, when both sets of lineages were raised on Witheringia, their fitnesses were statistically indistinguishable. While some aspects of the biology of S. coffeae may impair its ability to adapt to local selection pressures, scale insects are often locally adapted on fine spatial scales, and local maladaptation is therefore especially surprising. Other documented cases of local maladaptation in parasites appear to be due to evolution on the part of the host. The possibility that hosts or natural enemies may place local genotypes at a disadvantage, producing a pattern of local maladaptation, is one that deserves more consideration in the context of plant-insect interactions.

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