, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp 299-313
Date: 18 Jan 2013

Simultaneous tests of the preference-performance and phylogenetic conservatism hypotheses: is either theory useful?

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Abstract

The preference-performance and phylogenetic conservatism hypotheses have been postulated to explain the mechanisms driving host-use patterns of phytophagous insects. The preference-performance hypothesis predicts that insects will use plants that provide higher offspring fitness, while the phylogenetic conservatism hypothesis predicts that insects will use phylogenetically closely related plants over more distantly related plants. Although some studies have supported these two hypotheses, others have not. Simultaneous tests of the two hypotheses on more than one species are lacking, and this limits comparative interpretation of previous studies. We undertook a comparative investigation to determine whether preference-performance and/or the phylogenetic conservatism hypothesis can explain host-use patterns of two phytophagous insects, the fruit flies Bactrocera cucumis and B. tryoni. Within a nested, plant phylogenetic framework, oviposition preference and offspring performance of the two fruit fly species were tested on fruits of plant species from across different plant families, from within a family and across cultivars within a species. The results show that both the preference-performance and the phylogenetic conservatism hypotheses can, depending on the host plant taxonomic level, explain host usage patterns in B. cucumis, while neither theory explained the host patterns seen in B. tryoni. In the light of increasing recognition of the complexity of host plant–herbivore relationships, and of ongoing studies which as often as not fail to find support for these theories as those that do, we discuss the limited value of either theory as a basis for future research.

Handling Editor: Gimme Walter.