The role of adaptation to host plants in the evolution of reproductive isolation: negative evidence from Tetranychus urticae Koch

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Reproductive isolation between demes of a phytophagous arthropod population that use different host plant species could evolve in two different ways. First, adaptation to different host species might result in reproductive isolation as a pleiotropic by-product. Second, if adaptation to one host species strongly reduces fitness on others, selection could favour mechanisms, such as host fidelity and assortative mating, that restrict gene flow between host-adapted demes. A laboratory selection experiment on the broadly polyphagous spider mite Tetranychus Urticae gave information on these possibilities. A population allowed to adapt to tomato plants showed increased survival, development rate and fecundity on tomato relative to the base population from which it was derived. In spite of the large difference between the tomato-adapted and base populations in performance on tomato plants, the two populations showed no evidence of reproductive isolation, as measured by the hatching rate of eggs laid by F1 hybrids between the lines. Furthermore, a genetically variable population formed by hybridizing the tomato-adapted and base populations did not show evidence for a decline in ability to survive on tomato after more than ten generations of mass rearing on lima bean, indicating that tomato-adapted genotypes suffered little or no selective disadvantage on bean. These results give no support for the role of host plants in the evolution of reproductive isolation in T. urticae

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