Release of phylogenetic constraints through low resource heterogeneity: The case of gall-inducing sawflies

Peter W. Price, Takayuki Ohgushi, Heikki Roininen, Michihiro Ishihara, Timothy P. Craig, Jorma Tahvanainen, Sharon M. Ferrier

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18 Scopus citations


1. A group of six unusual sawfly species, which do not conform to the phylogenetic constraints hypothesis as it has been applied to sawflies, was examined in natural populations. All species were in the genus Pontania (Hymenoptera: Tenthredinidae), which induce galls on leaves of willow species (Salicaceae). An understanding of these non-conformist species was important as a test of the validity of the general hypothesis. 2. The six species of sawfly, Pontania mandshurica, P. cf. arcticornis, P. aestiva, P. arcticornis, P. pacifica, and P. nr. pacifica, showed no oviposition preference for long, vigorous shoots, in contrast to 37 documented tenthredinid species that have demonstrated such a preference. Rather, the non-conformist species attacked the shortest shoot length classes more frequently and larval establishment in galls was successful. 3. The evident escape from the phylogenetic constraint, which commonly limits sawfly attack to the most vigorous shoots in a willow population, resulted from low apparent heterogeneity of the resources exploited by these Pontania species. At the time of female oviposition, shoots and leaves were too uniform to allow discrimination by females among shoot length classes, resulting in random, or near random attack of shoots. 4. The unusual relative uniformity of resources to which sawflies were exposed resulted from several characteristics. (1) Females emerged early relative to shoot growth phenology, making discrimination among shoot length and vigour difficult or impossible. (2) Low heterogeneity in leaf length resulted in resource similarity independent of shoot length. (3) Abscission of leaves occurred after emergence of larvae from leaf galls so that differential abscission of leaves in relation to shoot length became irrelevant. (4) In some cases, low variance in shoot lengths was evident in old ramets lacking long, vigorous shoots. Probably as a result of low resource heterogeneity, larvae survived well across all shoot length classes, revealing no ovipositional preference and larval performance linkage related to the exploitation of the longest shoot length classes in a population of willows, as in the conformist species. Therefore, larval survival did not provide positive feedback on female preferential behaviour for long shoots, as in the conformist species studied.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)467-481
Number of pages15
JournalEcological Entomology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2004


  • Gall-inducing sawflies
  • Hymenoptera
  • Phylogenetic constraints hypothesis
  • Plant vigour hypothesis
  • Pontania species
  • Shoot length variation
  • Tenthredinidae


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