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Keywords:

  • Behavior;
  • host preference;
  • hybrid speciation;
  • invasives;
  • reproductive isolation;
  • Rhagoletis;
  • Tephritidae

Homoploid hybrid speciation—speciation via hybridization without a change in chromosome number—is rarely documented and poorly understood in animals. In particular, the mechanisms by which animal homoploid hybrid species become ecologically and reproductively isolated from their parents are hypothetical and remain largely untested by experiments. For the many host-specific parasites that mate on their host, choosing the right host is the most important ecological and reproductive barrier between these species. One example of a host-specific parasite is the Lonicera fly, a population of tephritid fruit flies that evolved within the last 250 years likely by hybridization between two native Rhagoletis species following a host shift to invasive honeysuckle. We studied the host preference of the Lonicera fly and its putative parent species in laboratory experiments. The Lonicera fly prefers its new host, introduced honeysuckle, over the hosts of both parental species, demonstrating the rapid acquisition of preference for a new host as a means of behavioral isolation from the parent species. The parent taxa discriminate against each other's native hosts, but both accept honeysuckle fruit, leaving the potential for asymmetric gene flow from the parent species. Importantly, this pattern allows us to formulate hypotheses about the initial formation of the Lonicera fly. As mating partners from the two parent taxa are more likely to meet on invasive honeysuckle than on their respective native hosts, independent acceptance of honeysuckle by both parents likely preceded hybridization. We propose that invasive honeysuckle served as a catalyst for the local breakdown of reproductive isolation between the native parent species, a novel consequence of the introduction of an exotic weed. We describe behavioral mechanisms that explain the initial hybridization and subsequent reproductive isolation of the hybrid Lonicera fly. These results provide experimental support for a combination of host shift and hybridization as a model for hybrid speciation in parasitic animals.