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Host-Plant Switches and the Evolution of Chemical Defense and Life History in the Leaf Beetle Genus Oreina

Susanne Dobler, Patrick Mardulyn, Jacques M. Pasteels and Martine Rowell-Rahier
Evolution
Vol. 50, No. 6 (Dec., 1996), pp. 2373-2386
DOI: 10.2307/2410706
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2410706
Page Count: 14
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Host-Plant Switches and the Evolution of Chemical Defense and Life History in the Leaf Beetle Genus Oreina
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Abstract

Insect-plant interactions have played a prominent role in investigating phylogenetic constraints in the evolution of ecological traits. The patterns of host association among specialized insects have often been described as highly conservative, yet not all specialized herbivorous insect lineages display the same degree of fidelity to their host plants. In this paper, we present an estimate of the evolutionary history of the leaf beetle genus Oreina. This genus displays an amazing flexibility in several aspects of its ecology and life history (1) host plant switches in Oreina occurred between plant families or distantly related tribes within families and thereby to more distantly related plants than in several model systems that have contributed to the idea of parallel cladogenesis; (2) all species of the genus are chemically defended, but within the genus a transition between autogenous production of defensive toxins and sequestration of secondary plant compounds has occurred; and (3) reproductive strategies in the genus range from oviparity to viviparity including all intermediates that could allow the gradual evolution of viviparity Cladistic analysis of 18 allozyme loci found two most parsimonious trees that differ only in the branching of one species. According to this phylogeny estimate, Oreina species were originally associated with Asteraceae, with an inclusion of Apiaceae in the diet of one oligophagous species and an independent switch to Apiaceae in a derived clade. The original mode of defense appears to be the autogenous production of cardenolides as previously postulated; the additional sequestration of pyrrolizidine alkaloids could have either originated at the base of the genus or have arisen three times independently in all species that switched to plants containing these compounds. Viviparity apparently evolved twice in the genus, once without matrotrophy, through a retention of the eggs inside the female's oviducts, and once in combination with matrotrophy. We hypothesize that the combination of autogenous defense and a life history that involves mobile externally feeding larvae allowed these beetles to switch host plants more readily than has been reported for highly conservative systems.

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