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Genetic Constraints on Macroevolution: The Evolution of Host Affiliation in the Leaf Beetle Genus Ophraella

Douglas J. Futuyma, Mark C. Keese and Daniel J. Funk
Evolution
Vol. 49, No. 5 (Oct., 1995), pp. 797-809
DOI: 10.2307/2410403
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2410403
Page Count: 13
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Genetic Constraints on Macroevolution: The Evolution of Host Affiliation in the Leaf Beetle Genus Ophraella
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Abstract

We hypothesize that the evolution of an ecologically important character, the host associations of specialized phytophagous insects, has been influenced by limitations on genetic variation. Using as a historical framework a phylogenetic reconstruction of the history of host associations in the beetle genus Ophraella (Chrysomelidae), we have employed quantitative-genetic methods to screen four species for genetic variation in larval survival, oviposition (in one species only), and feeding responses to their congeners' host plants, in the Asteraceae. We here report results of studies of one species and evaluate the results from all four. Analysis of half-sib/full-sib families and of progenies of wild females of O. notulata, a specialist on Iva (Ambrosiinae), provided evidence of genetic variation in larval consumption of five of six test plants and in adult consumption of four of six. Larval mortality was complete on five plants; only on Ambrosia, a close relative of the natural host, was there appreciable, and genetically variable, survival. Oviposition on Ambrosia showed marginally significant evidence of genetic variation; a more distantly related plant elicited no oviposition at all. In compiling results from four Ophraella species, reported in this and two other papers, we found no evidence of genetic variation in 18 of 39 tests of feeding responses and 14 of 16 tests of larval survival on congeners' hosts. This result is consistent with the hypothesis that absence or paucity of genetic variation may constrain or at least bias the evolution of host associations. The lower incidence of genetic variation in survival than in feeding behavior may imply, according to recent models, that avoidance is a more common evolutionary response to novel plants than adaptation. The usually great disparity between mean performance on congeners' hosts and the species' natural hosts, and an almost complete lack of evidence for negative genetic correlations, argue against the likelihood that speciation has occurred by sympatric host shift. The presence versus apparent absence of genetic variation in consumption was correlated with the propinquity of relationship between the beetle species tested and the species that normally feeds on the test plant, suggesting that the history of host shifts in Ophraella has been guided in part by restrictions on genetic variation. It was also correlated with the propinquity of relationship between a test plant and the beetle's natural host. The contributions of plant relationships and insect relationships, themselves correlated in part, to the pattern of genetic variation, are not readily distinguishable, but together accord with phylogenetic evidence that these and other phytophagous insects adapt most readily to related plants. In this instance, therefore, the macroevolution of an ecologically important character appears to have been influenced by genetic constraints. We hypothesize that absence of the structural prerequisites for genetic variation in complex characters may affect genetic variation and the trajectory of evolution.

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