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Evol Appl. 2012 Jul;5(5):470-80. doi: 10.1111/j.1752-4571.2012.00273.x. Epub 2012 Jun 7.

Host specificity in biological control: insights from opportunistic pathogens.

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Département de Sciences Biologiques, Institut de Recherche en Biologie Végétale, Université de Montréal Montréal, QC, Canada.


Host/prey specificity is a significant concern in biological control. It influences the effectiveness of a natural enemy and the risks it might have on non-target organisms. Furthermore, narrow host specificity can be a limiting factor for the commercialization of natural enemies. Given the great diversity in taxonomy and mode of action of natural enemies, host specificity is a highly variable biological trait. This variability can be illustrated by opportunist fungi from the genus Lecanicillium, which have the capacity to exploit a wide range of hosts - from arthropod pests to fungi causing plant diseases - through different modes of action. Processes determining evolutionary trajectories in host specificity are closely linked to the modes of action of the natural enemy. This hypothesis is supported by advances in fungal genomics concerning the identity of genes and biological traits that are required for the evolution of life history strategies and host range. Despite the significance of specificity, we still need to develop a conceptual framework for better understanding of the relationship between specialization and successful biological control. The emergence of opportunistic pathogens and the development of 'omic' technologies offer new opportunities to investigate evolutionary principles and applications of the specificity of biocontrol agents.


antibiosis; biological control; entomopathogenic fungi; host range; host specificity; mycopesticide; parasitism

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