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The importance of plant relatedness for host utilization among phytophagous insects




Current methods for measuring similarity among phytophagous insect communities fail to consider the phylogenetic relationship between host plants. We analysed this relation based on 3580 host observations of 1174 beetle species associated with 100 species of angiosperms in two different forest types in Panama. We quantified the significance of genetic distance as well as taxonomic rank among angiosperms in relation to species overlap in beetle assemblages. A logarithmic model describing the decrease in beetle species similarity between host-plant species of increasing phylogenetic distance explains 35% of the variation. Applied to taxonomic rank categories the results imply that except for the ancient branching of monocots from dicots, only adaptive radiations of plants on the family and genus level are important for host utilization among phytophagous beetles. These findings enable improvements in estimating host specificity and species richness through correction for phylogenetic relatedness between hosts and consideration of the host-specific fauna associated with monocots.

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