Testing for host-associated differentiation in two egg parasitoids of a forest herbivore


Correspondence: Raul F. Medina, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843-2475, USA. E-mail: rfmedina@tamu.edu


Several studies underline the importance of ecological barriers and differential selection in driving sympatric speciation. Host-associated differentiation (HAD) has been proposed as one of the mechanisms leading to sympatric speciation. However, it is still unclear how common HAD is or which are the factors that could promote it. In particular, not much is known about HAD in predators and parasitoids of herbivorous insects. One of the characteristics postulated to pre-dispose insects to HAD is parthenogenesis as it may favour adaptive responses to particular environments, amplifying selected gene complexes. In this study, we used amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) markers to determine whether HAD is present in two parthenogenetic egg parasitoids attacking the same herbivore species – the pine processionary moth, Thaumetopoea pityocampa (Denis & Schiffermüller) (Lepidoptera: Notodontidae) – on two host Pinus species. A total of 100 loci for 59 individuals sampled in four populations of Baryscapus servadeii (Domenichini) (Hymenoptera: Eulophidae), a specialist parasitoid, and 106 loci for 117 individuals sampled in six populations of Ooencyrtus pityocampae Mercet (Hymenoptera: Encyrtidae), a generalist parasitoid, were analysed. Levels of genetic differentiation were also assessed with an outlier analysis, checking for alleles associated to host plants. No evidence of HAD was detected in any of the two parasitoid species. We hypothesize that both the lack of strict parthenogenetic reproduction and the ectophagous nature of the insect host could explain the absence of HAD. The genetic variation observed in the generalist parasitoid responded to a pattern of local adaptation, whereas no relationship with either host or geography was found in the specialist parasitoid.