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Species overlap, speciation and the evolution of aggregation pheromones in bark beetles


present address: School of Tropical Biology, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia. E-mail:


Theoretical predictions suggest that species-specific signals used in the attraction of mates should evolve to reduce the risk of mismating and hybridization. These predictions lead to the hypothesis that the signals of spatially overlapping (i.e. sympatric or syntopic) species should differ more substantially than those of non-overlapping species. Earlier studies have tested this prediction for auditory and visual signals. Here we test the hypothesis using olfactory signals, specifically the aggregation pheromones of species from two genera of bark beetles, Dendroctonus and Ips. We found no direct evidence from within these genera regarding the fact that the chemical blends that make up these pheromones differ more substantially in species that overlap in their geographical ranges and/or host-tree use than in allopatric taxa. However, when comparing between genera, the pheromones of overlapping species appear to be more similar than non-overlapping species. We hypothesize that the species of host tree utilized by the beetles may have some influence on their pheromone blends. Additionally, within genera, species that overlap in host use tend to be more closely related than species that use different hosts. These results may provide indirect evidence for an effect of species overlap on the evolution of bark beetle pheromones.