Ecological adaptation and reproductive isolation in sympatry: genetic and phenotypic evidence for native host races of Rhagoletis pomonella



Ecological speciation with gene flow may be an important mode of diversification for phytophagous insects. The recent shift of Rhagoletis pomonella from its native host downy hawthorn (Crataegus mollis) to introduced apple (Malus domestica) in the northeastern United States is a classic example of sympatric host race formation. Here, we test whether R. pomonella has similarly formed host races on four native Crataegus species in the southern United States: western mayhaw (C. opaca), blueberry hawthorn (C. brachyacantha), southern red hawthorn (C. mollis var. texana) and green hawthorn (C. viridis). These four southern hosts differ from each other in their fruiting phenology and in the volatile compounds emitted from the surface of their fruits. These two traits form the basis of ecological reproductive isolation between downy hawthorn and apple flies in the north. We report evidence from microsatellite population surveys and eclosion studies supporting the existence of genetically differentiated and partially reproductively isolated host races of southern hawthorn flies. The results provide an example of host shifting and ecological divergence involving native plants and imply that speciation with gene flow may be commonly initiated in Rhagoletis when ecological opportunity presents itself.