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Host-associated genetic differentiation in a seed parasitic weevil Rhinusa antirrhini (Coleptera: Curculionidae) revealed by mitochondrial and nuclear sequence data


Brent Emerson, Fax: 0044 (0)1603 592250; E-mail:


Plant feeding insects and the plants they feed upon represent an ecological association that is thought to be a key factor for the diversification of many plant feeding insects, through differential adaptation to different plant selective pressures. While a number of studies have investigated diversification of plant feeding insects above the species level, relatively less attention has been given to patterns of diversification within species, particularly those that also require plants for oviposition and subsequent larval development. In the case of plant feeding insects that also require plant tissues for the completion of their reproductive cycle through larval development, the divergent selective pressure not only acts on adults, but on the full life history of the insect. Here we focus attention on Rhinusa antirrhini (Curculionidae), a species of weevil broadly distributed across Europe that both feeds on, and oviposits and develops within, species of the plant genus Linaria (Plantaginaceae). Using a combination of mtDNA (COII) and nuclear DNA (EF1-α) sequencing and copulation experiments we assess evidence for host associated genetic differentiation within R. antirrhini. We find substantial genetic variation within this species that is best explained by ecological specialisation on different host plant taxa. This genetic differentiation is most pronounced in the mtDNA marker, with patterns of genetic variation at the nuclear marker suggesting incomplete lineage sorting and/or gene flow between different host plant forms of R. antirrhini, whose origin is estimated to date to the mid-Pliocene (3.77 Mya; 2.91–4.80 Mya).