Loss of adaptation following reversion suggests trade-offs in host use by a seed beetle

Frank J. Messina, Utah State University
Susan L. Durham, Utah State University


Experimental evolution has provided little support for the hypothesis that the narrow diets of herbivorous insects reflect trade-offs in performance across hosts; selection lines can sometimes adapt to an inferior novel host without a decline in performance on the ancestral host. An alternative approach for detecting trade-offs would be to measure adaptation decay after selection is relaxed, that is, when populations newly adapted to a novel host are reverted to the ancestral one. Lines of the seed beetle Callosobruchus maculatus rapidly adapted to a poor host (lentil); survival in lentil seeds increased from 2% to > 90% in < 30 generations. After the lines had reached a plateau with respect to survival in lentil, sublines were reverted to the ancestral host, mung bean. Twelve generations of reversion had little effect on performance in lentil, but after 25–35 generations, the reverted lines exhibited lower survival, slower development and smaller size. The most divergent pair of lines was then assayed on both lentil and mung bean. Performance on lentil was again much poorer in the reverted line than in the nonreverted one, but the lines performed equally well on mung bean. Moreover, the performance of the nonreverted line on mung bean remained comparable to that of the original mung-bean population. Our results thus present a paradox: loss of adaptation to lentil following reversion implies a trade-off, but the continued strong performance of lentil-adapted lines on mung bean does not. Genomic comparisons of the reverted, nonreverted and ancestral lines may resolve this paradox and determine the importance of selection vs. drift in causing a loss of adaptation following reversion.