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A test of host-associated differentiation across the ‘parasite continuum’ in the tri-trophic interaction among yuccas, bogus yucca moths, and parasitoids

Authors


David M. Althoff, Fax: 315 443 2102; E-mail: dmalthof@syr.edu

Abstract

Parasitic taxa span an antagonistic continuum, with some parasites inflicting no fitness costs to some that kill the host after feeding. Host-associated differentiation is postulated as a major process facilitating speciation in many parasitic taxa. Here, I examined the importance of host-associated differentiation in a parasitoid wasp that develops on yucca moths in the genus Prodoxus. Prodoxus are specialists on Yucca, and moth speciation is closely tied to differences in microhabitat use within a plant and among host plant species. Parasitoids in the genus Eusandalum have been reared from Prodoxus species distributed across Yucca. Estimates of host-use patterns obtained through rearings of adult wasps were combined with surveys of mitochondrial DNA cytochrome oxidase I sequence data and amplified fragment length polymorphism markers to determine if populations of Eusandalum were genetically structured based on host use. Eusandalum populations were genetically structured based on geographical distance rather than moth host species, microhabitats within plants, or Yucca species. The results are contrary to the patterns observed in the host genus Prodoxus. Although parasitoids exhibit parasite-like characteristics, these results suggest that Eusandalum may be best viewed as a predator. Female wasps are able to utilize any moth species present at a given locality, and there is little likelihood that host specialization may facilitate population subdivision and speciation.

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