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Host plant preference and performance of the sibling species of butterflies Leptidea sinapis and Leptidea reali: a test of the trade-off hypothesis for food specialisation.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-4719-487X
2009 (English)In: Oecologia, ISSN 0029-8549, Vol. 159, no 1, 127-137 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

A large proportion of phytophagous insect species are specialised on one or a few host plants, and female host plant preference is predicted to be tightly linked to high larval survival and performance on the preferred plant(s). Specialisation is likely favoured by selection under stable circumstances, since different host plant species are likely to differ in suitability-a pattern usually explained by the "trade-off hypothesis", which posits that increased performance on a given plant comes at a cost of decreased performance on other plants. Host plant specialisation is also ascribed an important role in host shift speciation, where different incipient species specialise on different host plants. Hence, it is important to determine the role of host plants when studying species divergence and niche partitioning between closely related species, such as the butterfly species pair Leptidea sinapis and Leptidea reali. In Sweden, Leptidea sinapis is a habitat generalist, appearing in both forests and meadows, whereas Leptidea reali is specialised on meadows. Here, we study the female preference and larval survival and performance in terms of growth rate, pupal weight and development time on the seven most-utilised host plants. Both species showed similar host plant rank orders, and larvae survived and performed equally well on most plants with the exceptions of two rarely utilised forest plants. We therefore conclude that differences in preference or performance on plants from the two habitats do not drive, or maintain, niche separation, and we argue that the results of this study do not support the trade-off hypothesis for host plant specialisation, since the host plant generalist Leptidea sinapis survived and performed as well on the most preferred meadow host plant Lathyrus pratensis as did Leptidea reali although the generalist species also includes other plants in its host range.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Berlin: Springer , 2009. Vol. 159, no 1, 127-137 p.
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-15953DOI: 10.1007/s00442-008-1206-8ISI: 000262576700012PubMedID: 19002503OAI: diva2:182473
Available from: 2009-02-06 Created: 2009-02-06 Last updated: 2014-10-13Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. The evolutionary ecology of niche separation: Studies on the sympatric butterflies Leptidea sinapis and Leptidea reali
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The evolutionary ecology of niche separation: Studies on the sympatric butterflies Leptidea sinapis and Leptidea reali
2009 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Studies of ecology and evolution have become largely integrated, and increasing attention is paid to the role of ecology for speciation and post speciation divergence. In this thesis I have applied an in-depth approach studying the ecology of a butterfly species pair; the morphologically virtually identical sister-species, the Wood white (Leptidea sinapis) and Reál’s wood white (Leptidea reali). PAPER I showed a quite deep between-species division in sequence data from mitochondrial DNA. The reuniting in secondary contact zones might in contrast be quite recent, as males of L. sinapis and L. reali cannot distinguish between con- and heterospecific females (PAPER II) and since the between-species niche separation is incomplete (PAPER III, IV, V). Furthermore, the two species have partitioned their niches in different directions in different European regions as the two species shift habitat generalist and specialist roles throughout their joint distribution (PAPER III). However, the local niche partitioning has resulted in species-specific adaptations in terms of propensity to enter diapause (PAPER III, V, VI), host plant acceptance (PAPER V), and in ability to use host plant as cue for the decision to enter diapause or direct development (PAPER VI). The habitat separation is decoupled from host plant preference, at least in south central Sweden (PAPER IV), which implies that selection for niche partitioning has acted on habitat preferences directly and not via divergent selection on host plant preference. Finally, there is a high cost of appearing at a site where the other species is in the majority as much time (PAPER VII) and energy (PAPER II) are devoted to court heterospecific females or being courted by heterospecific males (PAPER VII). Hence, selection likely favours habitat specialisation in the rarest species in each region, and the direction of niche separation might simply be decided by which species that reached an area first. The species that first colonises an area would then most likely become a generalist filling up all suitable habitats, whereas the second invader might be forced to specialise, as the cost of being rare is too large everywhere but in the core population. This thesis highlights the role of ecology, and especially of local processes, for post-speciation selection and character displacement.


Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Zoology, Stockholm University, 2009. 44 p.
Lepidoptera, ecological character displacement, reproductive isolation, species discrimination, habitat, host plant, life history, sexual selection, female choice
National Category
Biological Sciences
Research subject
Animal Ecology
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-30822 (URN)978-91-7155-964-7 (ISBN)
Public defence
2009-11-27, Magnélisalen, Kemiska övningslaboratoriet, Svante Arrhenius väg 16 B, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
At the time of the doctoral defense, the folowing papers were unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 1:Manuscript. Paper 6:Manuscript. Paper 7:ManuscriptAvailable from: 2009-11-05 Created: 2009-10-27 Last updated: 2014-10-13Bibliographically approved

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