Oviposition specificity and behavior of the watermilfoil specialist Euhrychiopsis lecontei
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- Solarz, S.L. & Newman, R.M. Oecologia (1996) 106: 337. doi:10.1007/BF00334561
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Eurasian watermilfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum L.) is a nuisance aquatic weed, exotic to North America. The freshwater weevil Euhrychiopsis lecontei (Dietz) is a potential control agent of Eurasian watermilfoil and is a fully submersed aquatic specialist herbivore. Its presumed original host is the native northern watermilfoil (Myriophyllum sibiricum Komarov). We conducted a set of oviposition experiments to reveal first and second oviposition preference of Euhrychiopsis lecontei when presented with seven macrophytes. We tested differences between source (lake) populations of weevils, differences in behavior between weevils reared on the exotic Eurasian watermilfoil and the native northern watermilfoil and between weevils in the presence and absence of their preferred hostplant. Oviposition assays confirmed that E. lecontei is a watermilfoil specialist. Out of the 207 females that laid eggs, only three oviposited on a non-watermilfoil plant, Megalodonta beckii. The weevils' degree of specificity was influenced by the watermilfoil species on which they were reared. Weevils reared on Eurasian watermilfoil tended to oviposit on Eurasian watermilfoil, spent more time on Eurasian watermilfoil than on other plants, and spent more time off plants and took longer to oviposit when Eurasian watermilfoil was removed. Weevils reared on northern watermilfoil did not exhibit a preference for either watermilfoil species in oviposition or in time allocation, although they oviposited on and spent significantly more time on watermilfoils than on other species. Rearing of the two populations on their complementary watermilfoil hostplant resulted in responses typical of the rearing plant, not the original host. These results show that although both weevil populations are watermilfoil specialists, Eurasian-reared weevils prefer Eurasian watermilfoil in general host attraction and oviposition, whereas northern-reared weevils do not. The results support the contention that E. lecontei may be a good biocontrol agent for Eurasian watermilfoil because of its high specificity. The results also suggest that the current host range expansion of the weevil to Eurasian watermilfoil has the potential to become a host shift due to the increased specificity. Herbivory in freshwater systems is not well studied, and the E. lecontei-M. spicatum relationship is a rare example of submersed freshwater specialist herbivore-host-plant interactions.