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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2001 Mar;18(3):467-78.

Evolutionary assembly of the milkweed fauna: cytochrome oxidase I and the age of Tetraopes beetles.

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Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA.


The insects that feed on the related plant families Apocynaceae and Asclepiadaceae (here collectively termed "milkweeds") comprise a "component community" of highly specialized, distinctive lineages of species that frequently sequester toxic cardiac glycosides from their host plants for defense against predators and are thus often aposematic, advertising their consequent unpalatability. Such sets of specialized lineages provide opportunities for comparative studies of the rate of adaptation, diversification, and habitat-related effects on molecular evolution. The cerambycid genus Tetraopes is the most diverse of the new world milkweed herbivores and the species are generally host specific, being restricted to single, different species of Asclepias, more often so than most other milkweed insects. Previous work revealed correspondence between the phylogeny of these beetles and that of their hosts. The present study provides analyses of near-complete DNA sequences for Tetraopes and relatives that are used to establish a molecular clock and temporal framework for Tetraopes evolution with their milkweed hosts.

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