Izeniola obesula Dorchin and Stefaniola defoliata Dorchin (Diptera, Cecidomyiidae) are two cecidomyiid species inducing multichambered galls in young shoots of the salt marsh plant, Suaeda monoica Gmelin (Chenopodiaceae). The purpose of this work was to study the relationship between the two species, which co-occur in time and space, and may therefore potentially compete for plant resources.
Characterization of the resources available to ovipositing females revealed that shoots in apical positions are more vigorous than shoots in basal positions, but that the two species of gall midges react to this variability of resources in different ways, as reflected by the patterns of gall distribution. Izeniola obesula galls were primarily induced in the younger, more rapidly growing shoots, whereas those of S. defoliata were predominantly induced in older, less vigorous shoots. Nevertheless, despite the general partitioning of resources, a certain amount of niche overlap was found, resulting in the occasional induction of an S. defoliata gall proximal to that of I. obesula in the same shoot. Co-occurrence of the two types of galls in time and space did not have apparent effect on S. defoliata galls, but did have a strong adverse impact on young I. obesula galls, 60% of which were killed without producing adult midges, and the remaining 40% produced a much smaller number of adults. These effects are attributed to asymmetric interspecific competition that is mediated by the plant, resulting from the difference in stem tissues utilized by the larvae of the two species. It is concluded that preponderance of vacant niches, low densities of galls, and small niche overlap between the species do not preclude the occurrence of interspecific exploitative competition in this system, although its role in shaping the populations of the species is limited.