• interspecific hybrids;
  • oviposition;
  • insect-plant relations;
  • speciation;
  • diet breadth;
  • gustatory;
  • Yponomeutidae;
  • Lepidoptera;
  • Hopkins host selection principle


Changes in host acceptance is an important factor in the host specialization of phytophagous insects, and knowledge of the genetic organization of this behaviour is necessary in order to understand how host shifts occur. Here we describe the inheritance of adult host acceptance (oviposition) in three closely related species of Yponomeuta Latreille (Lepidoptera: Yponomeutidae), and their interspecific hybrids. Yponomeuta cagnagellus (Hübner), a specialist on Euonymus europaeus L. (Celastraceae), Y. malinellus Zeller, a specialist on Malus spp. (Rosaceae), and Y. padellus (L.), oligophagous on a number of Rosaceae, were tested for their acceptance of parental hosts in choice tests. Acceptance of E. europaeus is semi-dominant in hybrids of Y. cagnagellus×Y. padellus, and in hybrids of Y. cagnagellus×Y. malinellus. The dominance of this acceptance was confirmed in oviposition tests with backcross hybrids: backcross hybrids F1 × Y. cagnagellus oviposited mainly on E. europaeus and F1 × Y. padellus still deposited more than half of their egg masses on E. europaeus. Reciprocal hybrids did not differ in their host acceptance, indicating that the trait is autosomal. We further studied the effect of larval food on adult host acceptance (‘Hopkins host selection principle’) in split full-sib F1 families. Larval diet influenced oviposition only in one of two hybrid crosses. The F1 hybrid of Y. padellus× Y. cagnagellus, reared on Prunus spinosa L., deposited a significantly lower percentage of egg masses on E. europaeus compared to their full-sib sisters fed with E. europaeus. We did not find this in the reciprocal cross. However, still more than half of the egg masses are deposited on E. europaeus by hybrids that have no experience on this host. We conclude that the semi-dominant character of acceptance of E. europaeus and a tendency of Rosaceae-feeding Yponomeuta to deposit egg masses on this host may have created the opportunity for the host shift of the predecessor of Y. cagnagellus from Rosaceae to the Celastraceae. This shift may have been further facilitated by a weak tendency of adults to oviposit on their larval food source.