Genetic divergence and ecological specialisation of seed weevils (Exapion spp.) on gorses (Ulex spp.)

Publication Type:Journal Article
Authors:M. Barat, Tarayre, M., Atlan, A.
Journal:Ecological Entomology
Date Published:June
Type of Article:Article
:Exapion lemovicinum, Exapion ulicis

1. Reproductive isolation of sympatric populations may result from divergent selection of populations in different environments, and lead to ecological specialisation. In Brittany (France), the gorse Ulex europaeus (Fabaceae, Genisteae), may be encountered in sympatry with one of the two other gorse species present: U. gallii and U. minor. A recent study based on morphological identification of seed predators of gorse has shown that two weevil species (Curculionoidea, Apionidae) infest gorse pods at different seasons and have different host ranges: Exapion ulicis infests U. europaeus in spring, whereas E. lemovicinum infests U. gallii and U. minor in autumn. Weevil populations may thus have diverged in sympatry.2. As morphological identification of weevils is often difficult and some of the characters used may exhibit individual or environmental variation, mitochondrial and nuclear sequences of weevils collected within pods of the three gorse species in 10 populations of Brittany were used to reconstruct their phylogeny.3. The results reveal that species differentiation based on morphological characters is confirmed by the two molecular data sets, showing that E. ulicis and E. lemovicinum are distinct species, and suggesting the absence of host races. Finally, E. ulicis was able to use U. gallii and U. minor pods in spring in some years in some populations, which appeared to depend on the availability of pods present during its reproductive period.4. Divergence between E. ulicis and E. lemovicinum may have resulted from temporal isolation of reproductive periods of weevil populations followed by specialisation of insects to host phenology.

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