, Volume 76, Issue 1, pp 138-147

Behavioral evidence for host races in Rhagoletis pomonella flies

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Summary

One of the most controversial putative cases of host race formation in insects is that of the apple maggot fly, Rhagoletis pomonella (Diptera: Tephritidae). A principal cause of the controversy is lack of relevant data. In laboratory and field enclosure experiments, we compared the host acceptance behavior of sympatric populations of flies originating from naturally infested hawthorn (the native host) and apple (an introduced host) in Amherst, Massachusetts or East Lansing, Michigan. In general, hawthorn fruit were accepted for ovipositional attempts nearly equally by apple and hawthorn origin females, whereas apples were accepted much more often by apple than hawthorn origin females. Similarly, males of apple and hawthorn origin exhibited about equal duration of residence on hawthorn fruits as sites at which to acquire potential mates, while males of apple origin tended to reside substantially longer than males of hawthorn origin on apples. Irrespective of fly origin, both sexes always responded more positively to hawthorn fruit than to apples. Because all flies assayed were naive (ruling out effects of prior host experience of adults) and because tests revealed no influence of pre-imaginal fruit exposure on pattern of host fruit acceptance by females, the combined evidence suggests the phenotypic differences we observed in host response pattern between hawthorn and apple origin flies may have an underlying genetic basis. Further tests showed that while larval progeny of flies of each origin survived better in naturally growing hawthorn fruit than in naturally growing apples, there was no differential effect of fly origin on larval survival ability in either host. We discuss our findings in relation to restriction in gene flow between sympatric populations of R. pomonella and in relation to current models of host shifts in insects.