An Experimentally Induced Host Shift in a Seed Beetle

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Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata



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Many insects use a fairly well-defined set of host plants, but are occasionally observed on an atypical host. The seed beetle Callosobruchus maculatus (F.) (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae: Bruchinae) has rarely been reported to attack lentil, which is distantly related to its usual legume hosts. An initial assay of an Asian beetle population revealed that none of the 100 larvae entering lentil seeds survived to adult emergence. Nevertheless, three attempts at mass selection, in which more than 2 000 adults were added to lentil seeds, eventually yielded self-sustaining populations. In each case, a severe bottleneck was followed by a rapid increase in survival, which exceeded 65% after only five generations and surpassed 85% in <20 generations. Subsequent large-scale experiments indicated that survival in lentil is initially <2% and that most larvae die before they have completely entered a seed. The only potential trade-off associated with rapid adaptation to lentil was a modest increase in the time required to develop in the ancestral host, mung bean. Reciprocal crosses between a lentil-adapted line (F10) and a mung-bean line produced offspring with intermediate survival, very long development times, and small size. Although the Asian population has been kept under uniform laboratory conditions for more than 200 generations, it appears to maintain rare alleles that permit the colonization of an extremely poor host. Such standing genetic variation can account for the sporadic appearance of unusual ‘biotypes’ among herbivorous insects.

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