Predictable Modification of Body Size and Competitive Ability Following a Host Shift by a Seed Beetle

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Physiological Entomology



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Interfertile populations of the seed beetle Callosobruchus maculatus differ genetically in several behavioral, morphological, and life-history traits, including traits that affect the intensity of larval competition within seeds. Previous studies have suggested that this variation depends on differences in host size. I performed a selection experiment in which replicate beetle lines were either maintained on a small, ancestral host (mung bean) or switched to a larger, novel host (cowpea). After 40 generations, I estimated survival, development time, and adult mass on each host, both in the presence and absence of larval competition. The shift to cowpea substantially reduced body size; irrespective of rearing host, adults from the cowpea lines were more than 10% lighter than those from the mung bean lines. Switching to cowpea also improved survival and reduced development time on this host, but without decreasing performance on the ancestral host. The most striking effect of the shift to a larger host was a reduction in larval competitiveness. When two even-aged larvae co-existed within a seed, the probability that both survived to adult emergence was > or = 65% if larvae were from the cowpea lines but < or = 12% if they were from the mung bean lines. The adverse effects of competition on development time and adult mass were also less severe in the cowpea lines than in the mung bean lines. By rapidly evolving smaller size and reduced competitiveness, the cowpea lines converged toward populations chronically associated with cowpea. These results suggest that evolutionary trajectories can be predictable, and that host-specific selection can play a major role in the diversification of insect life histories. Because host shifts by small, endophagous insects are comparable to the colonization of new habitats, adaptive responses may often include traits (such as larval competitiveness) that are not directly related to host use

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