Evolutionary Ecology of Polyphagy

Michael S. Singer

in Specialization, Speciation, and Radiation

Published by University of California Press

Published in print March 2008 | ISBN: 9780520251328
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520933828 | DOI:
Evolutionary Ecology of Polyphagy

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The evolutionary ecology of polyphagy by phytophagous insects has been overshadowed by an intense focus on the evolutionary ecology of their host specificity. This bias reflects the preponderance of host specificity in phytophagous insects, and its fascinating consequences for community structure and evolutionary diversification. Truly, the study of host-specific herbivores has provided many key insights and motivated the conceptual side of the study of plant–insect interactions as well as the broader issues of ecological specialization, coevolution, and speciation. This chapter examines the evolutionary ecology of polyphagy by phytophagous insects and considers several plausible adaptive explanations for host specificity, including the physiological-efficiency hypothesis, enemy-free-space hypothesis, optimal-foraging hypothesis, and neural-constraints hypothesis. It also considers trade-offs as explanations for host-plant use, trade-offs and competition, and food quality versus enemy-free space. Finally, the chapter discusses empirical work on the evolutionary ecology of host-plant use by two polyphagous woolly bear caterpillars, Grammia geneura and Estigmene acrea.

Keywords: Grammia geneura; Estigmene acrea; evolutionary ecology; host-plant use; woolly bear caterpillars; polyphagy; phytophagous insects; host specificity; trade-offs; competition

Chapter.  11394 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Evolutionary Biology

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