Herbivorous Insects and the Hawaiian Silversword Alliance: Coevolution or Cospeciation?

Roderick, George K.
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University of Hawaii Press
Numerous groups of herbivorous insects in the Hawaiian archipelago have undergone adaptive radiations. R. C. L. Perkins collected and documented species in nearly all of these groups. In this study I tested whether patterns of host plant use by herbivorous insects can be explained by host plant history. I examined a group of insects in the planthopper genus Nesosydne (Hemiptera: Delphacidae) that feed on plants in the Hawaiian silversword alliance, many of which are endangered or threatened. For these Nesosydne species feeding on the silversword alliance, mitochondrial DNA sequence data revealed a statistically significant pattern of cospeciation between these insects and their hosts. These planthoppers are highly host-specific, with each species feeding on only one, or a few closely related, plant species. Patterns of host plant use across the plant lineage, as well as within extensive hybrid zones between members of the silversword alliance, suggest that planthopper diversification parallels host plant diversification. Data collected thus far are consistent with, but do not directly demonstrate, reciprocal adaptation. For other herbivorous insects associated with members of the Hawaiian silversword alliance, patterns of host plant use and evolutionary history are not yet well understood. However, cospeciation appears not to be universal. For example, endemic flies in the family Tephritidae (Diptera) are less host-specific and demonstrate host-switching. Research is under way to reveal the mechanisms associated with cospeciation and host switching for different insect groups associated with the Hawaiian silversword alliance.
Roderick GK. 1997. Herbivorous insects and the Hawaiian silversword alliance: coevolution or cospeciation? Pac Sci 51(4): 440-449.
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