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Factors Affecting Host Plant Selection in Desert-Adapted Cactiphilic Drosophila

David P. Fellows and William B. Heed
Ecology
Vol. 53, No. 5 (Sep., 1972), pp. 850-858
Published by: Wiley
DOI: 10.2307/1934300
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1934300
Page Count: 9
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Factors Affecting Host Plant Selection in Desert-Adapted Cactiphilic Drosophila
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Abstract

Three types of tests were conducted to determine the causal factors for the narrow larval niche breadth and the low amount of larval niche overlap observed among common species of Drosophila breeding in rotting cereus cacti in the Sonoran Desert. (1) Field test and observations show that host plant discrimination for feeding adults is very high but not absolute. (2) Substrate substitution experiments conducted individually with four species of cactiphilic Drosophila on six kinds of artificially rotted cacti show that every species except D. mojavensis reproduces bests on the cactus (or cacti) on which it is resident in nature. Even so D. mojavensis and D. arizonensis, both of which are polyphagic, emerge in large numbers from five kinds of cacti. (3) Laboratory competition tests with mixed species established in three cases that the resident species was unaffected, as compared with monoculture controls, while the alien species usually emerged in significantly fewer numbers. In two other competition situations neither the alien nor resident species was significantly affected. Inability of the polyphagic species to invade certain non-host cacti in nature could be due to competition in the first three cases. In the latter two cases either the physical characteristics of the substrate or the climate affecting distribution (and/or density) appears to be the principal restricting factor. Narrow host plant specificity is accompanied by specialized nutritional requirements and more continuously available rot pockets in the host plants.

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