Genetic basis for established and novel host plant use in a herbivorous ladybird beetle, Epilachna vigintioctomaculata



Genetic trade-offs in host plant use are thought to promote the evolution of host specificity. Experiments on a range of herbivorous insects, however, have found negative genetic correlation in host plant use in only a limited number of species. To account for the general lack of negative genetic correlation, recent hypotheses advocate that different stages in evolution of host use must be distinguished: initial performance on a novel host in comparison with the established host, and performance on both hosts after the insect population has interacted with both hosts for a long time. The hypotheses suggest that genetic correlation may not necessarily be negative at the initial stage. The present study examines growth performance on both the established and a novel host in a herbivorous ladybird beetle, Epilachna vigintioctomaculata Motschulsky (Coccinellidae, Epilachninae). The results show that traits of growth performance across hosts were positively or neutrally correlated, but there was no evidence of a negative genetic correlation. In addition, significant genetic variance of growth performance on each host was detected, suggesting that E. vigintioctomaculata can potentially respond to selection for increased performance on both plant species. These results and similar results from experiments on other herbivores suggest that host expansion may not be constrained genetically, at least at the initial stage of host range evolution.