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Intra- and interspecific competition and host race formation in the apple maggot fly, Rhagoletis pomonella (Diptera: Tephritidae)

Abstract

Intra- and interspecific resource competition are potentially important factors affecting host plant use by phytophagous insects. In particular, escape from competitors could mediate a successful host shift by compensating for decreased feeding performance on a new plant. Here, we examine the question of host plant-dependent competition for apple (Malus pumila)- and hawthorn (Crataegus mollis)-infesting larvae of the apple maggot fly, Rhagoletis pomonella (Diptera: Tephritidae) at a field site near Grant, Michigan, USA. Interspecific competition from tortricid (Cydia pomonella, Grapholita prunivora, and Grapholita packardi) and agonoxenid (subfamily Blastodacninae) caterpillars and a curculionid weevil (Conotrachelus crataegi) was much stronger for R. pomonella larvae infesting the ancestral host hawthorn than the derived host apple. Egg to pupal survivorship was estimated as 52.8% for fly larvae infesting hawthorn fruit without caterpillars and weevils compared to only 27.3% for larvae in harthorns with interspecific insects. Survivorship was essentially the same between fly larvae infesting apples in the presence (44.8%) or absence (42.6%) of interspecific insects. Intraspecific competition among maggots was also stronger in hawthorns than apples. The order or time that a larva exited a hawthorn fruit was a significant determinant of its pupal mass, with earlier emerging larvae being heavier than later emerging larvae. This was not the case for larvae in apples, as the order or time that a larva exited an apple fruit had relatively little influence on its pupal mass. Our findings suggest that decreased performance related to host plant chemistry/nutrition may restrict host range expansion and race formation in R. pomonella to those plants where biotic/ecological factors (i.e. escape from competitors and parasitoids) adequately balance the survivorship equation. This balance permits stable fly populations to persist on novel plants, setting the stage for the evolution of host specialization under certain mitigating conditions (e.g. when mating is host specific and host-associated fitness trade-offs exist).

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Correspondence to Jeffrey L. Feder.

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Feder, J.L., Reynolds, K., Go, W. et al. Intra- and interspecific competition and host race formation in the apple maggot fly, Rhagoletis pomonella (Diptera: Tephritidae). Oecologia 101, 416–425 (1995). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00329420

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00329420

Key words

  • Host races
  • Intra- and interspecific competition
  • Sympatric speciation
  • Apple maggot fly