Canadian Forest Service Publications

Geographic biotype and host-associated local adaptation in a polyphagous species, Lambdina fiscellaria (Lepidoptera: Geometridae) feeding on balsam fir on Anticosti Island, Canada. 2006. Hébert, C.; Berthiaume, R.; Bauce, E.; Brodeur, J. Bull. Entomol. Res. 96: 619-627.

Year: 2006

Issued by: Laurentian Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 26985

Language: English

Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)

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The debate about mechanisms underlying the evolution of host specialization by herbivorous insects remains open. Natural selection may act locally and lead to different patterns of geographic variation in life history traits of polyphagous herbivores. The hypothesis of genetically-based trade-offs in offspring performance on different hosts has been proposed but this has rarely been demonstrated. Under laboratory conditions, the biological performance of two populations of the hemlock looper Lambdina fiscellaria (Guenée), a highly polyphagous lepidopteran, was compared when reared on three different tree host species: balsam fir, eastern hemlock and sugar maple. One population originated from Anticosti Island, Québec, Canada, where the insect has evolved without having access to two of the three tree species tested, the other being from the mainland where all tree species are present. When reared on balsam fir foliage, which was naturally available to each population, larvae from Anticosti Island underwent four instars compared with five for the mainland population, indicating the existence of geographic biotypes in L. fiscellaria. When reared on the foliage of non-naturally available host trees, larvae from Anticosti Island had a higher incidence of supernumerary instars. This is a unique example where local adaptation to environmental conditions of an insect herbivore is expressed through a differential number of larval instars. Moreover, the Anticosti Island population showed a higher growth related index on the host available to both populations indicating that a fitness trade-off was the evolutionary process underlying the local adaptation of this population on balsam fir.