Carnivores and carotenoids are associated with adaptive behavioural divergence in a radiation of gall midges


Jeremy J. Heath, Department of Biological Sciences, Wright State University, 3640 Colonel Glenn Hwy., Dayton, OH 45435, U.S.A. E-mail:


1. Adaptive divergence in sympatry is supposed to be inhibited by the homogenizing role of gene flow. However, studies continue to uncover examples of sympatric divergence. In this study, two divergent phenotypes in a complex of four syntopic gall midge morphotypes [nominally Asteromyia carbonifera Osten Saken, Diptera: Cecidomyiidae: Alycaulini] are characterised. The first is a behavioural phenotype governing within-host tissue preference and the second is a trait governing accessory-gland carotenoid quality and quantity.

2. One gall morphotype (crescents) lay most of their eggs on mature tissue whereas the other three gall morphotypes oviposit only on young emerging leaves. Ecological maintenance of this divergent trait appears to be driven by enemy-reduced space. That is, nearly 40% of the crescent morphotype galls that develop high on the plant are attacked by the egg parasitoid Platygaster solidaginis Ashmed, whereas those low on the plant are relatively protected.

3. All morphotypes contain carotenoids in their accessory glands, but the quality and quantity of these pigments differs significantly between the morphotypes and is positively associated with the probability of parasitism by P. solidaginis.

4. Larval salivary glands also contain carotenoids and the plant hormone abscisic acid, which in plants is synthesized from carotenoid precursors and is involved in regulating plant defences. This hormone may facilitate gall development and influence gall morphology.

5. Ecological fitness trade-offs between carotenoids, parasitoid attack, and plant resistance may be fostering adaptive divergence in ovipositional phenotypes and sympatric speciation in this complex of gall midge morphotypes.