Induction of Preference and Performance after Acclimation to Novel Hosts in a Phytophagous Spider Mite: Adaptive Plasticity?

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We examined induction of preference and performance on novel host plants for two laboratory populations of the polyphagous spider mite Tetranychus urticae, with one population adapted to bean and the other population adapted to tomato. We bred four isofemale lines of the bean population only and used them in all the assays. The bean population had a 30% lower fecundity on tomato than on bean, while the tomato population had equal fecundity on both host plants. Acclimation of adult females to the novel host plant for both populations increased acceptability of that novel host but did not increase rejection of the original host. The bean population experienced a 60% benefit and a 30% cost in terms of egg production for acclimating to tomato, thus exemplifying adaptive plasticity. The tomato population showed a 23% benefit for acclimating to bean but no cost. Mites from the bean population that were acclimated to tomato fed more on tomato than did mites that were not acclimated to tomato. When these mites were fed inhibitors of cytochrome P?450 detoxification enzymes, their performance was severely depressed (84%) on tomato but not on bean. However, mites that were fed inhibitors of P?450 enzymes did not reduce their acceptance of tomato as a host. Thus, performance on novel hosts (but not preference) in this species is likely correlated with the induction of detoxifying enzymes. Spider mites are known to form host races rapidly on novel hosts. Induction of preference and physiological acclimation via detoxification enzymes may enhance performance and, thus, strongly contribute to initial stages of host race formation.

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The American Naturalist

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This work was supported by the Section of Population Biology at the University of Amsterdam, U.S. Department of Agriculture NRI Grant 9602065, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and the Department of Botany at the University of Toronto.

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University of Chicago Press


cytochrome P-450 enzymes; detoxification; diet specialization; host-range evolution; induction of preference; preference-performance relationships


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Agrawal, A. A., Vala, F., & Sabelis, M. W. (2002). Induction of Preference and Performance after Acclimation to Novel Hosts in a Phytophagous Spider Mite: Adaptive Plasticity? The American Naturalist, 159(5), 553–565.

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