Host races play a central part in understanding the role of host plant mediated divergence and speciation of phytophagous insects. Of greatest interest are host-associated populations that have recently diverged; however, finding genetic evidence for very recent divergences is difficult because initially only a few loci are expected to evolve diagnostic differences. The holly leafminer Phytomyza glabricola feeds on two hollies, Ilex glabra and I. coriacea, that are broadly sympatric throughout most of their ranges. The leafminer is often present on both host plants and exhibits a dramatic life history difference on the two hosts, suggesting that host races may be present. We collected 1393 bp of mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase I (COI) sequence and amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) data (45 polymorphic bands) from sympatric populations of flies reared from the two hosts. Phylogenetic and frequency analysis of mitochondrial COI sequence data uncovered considerable variation but no structuring by the host plant, and only limited differentiation among geographical locations. In contrast, analysis of AFLP frequency data found a significant effect with host plant, and a much smaller effect with geographical location. Likewise, neighbour-joining analysis of AFLP data resulted in clustering by host plant. The AFLP data indicate that P. glabricola is most likely comprised of two host races. Because there were no fixed differences in mitochondrial or AFLP data, this host-associated divergence is likely to have occurred very recently. P. glabricola therefore provides a new sympatric system for exploring the role of geography and ecological specialization in the speciation of phytophagous insects.
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