The effects of host race, gender, and host plant distribution on alighting behavior, mating, and oviposition in Eurosta solidaginis

John D. Horner, Timothy P Craig, Joanne K Itami

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Eurosta solidaginis Fitch (Diptera: Tephritidae) has formed host races on Solidago altissima L. and Solidago gigantea Ait. (Asteraceae), and reproductive isolation between these host races is brought about in part by host-associated assortative mating. Any non-assortative mating creates the potential for gene flow between the populations, and we investigated the conditions that favored non-assortative mating. We hypothesized that the frequency of non-assortative mating would be influenced by differences in the behaviors of the host races and sexes and by the presence and pattern of distribution of the two host species. To test these hypotheses, we caged flies on four combinations of 32 potted host plants: all S. altissima, all S. gigantea, and cages with both host species arranged in either two pure species blocks or randomly dispersed. We recorded the number of flies of each host race that alighted on each host species and the frequency of mating within and between the host races. Males of both host races were observed on plants more frequently than females. Flies of the host race from S. gigantea (gig flies) were observed on plants in greater absolute numbers, and they mated more frequently than flies of the host race from S. altissima (alt flies). In all treatments, gig flies of both sexes were found on non-natal host plants significantly more frequently than alt flies, and gig females showed a weaker preference for their host species than did gig males or alt flies of either gender for their respective natal hosts. Assortative mating predominated in all treatments, and flies from each host race mated more frequently in cages containing their own host plant. The frequency of non-assortative mating varied among treatments, with the matings between alt ♀ × gig ♂ being more common in the pure S. altissima treatment and the gig ♀ × alt ♂ being more frequent in the pure S. gigantea and random treatments. Matings between gig ♂ × alt ♀ were more common overall than the reciprocal mating, because gig males were more active in pursuing matings and in alighting on the non-natal host plant than alt flies. Non-assortative matings were more frequent in the random than in the block treatments, but this difference was not significant. Because of strong selection against oviposition into the alternate host, we hypothesized that host plant distribution would not affect oviposition preference. We tested this hypothesis by examining the oviposition behavior of naïve, mated females in two treatments in which both host species were present: either arranged in blocks or randomly dispersed. Females oviposited only into their natal host, regardless of host plant distribution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)274-282
Number of pages9
JournalEntomologia Experimentalis et Applicata
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2008


  • Assortative mating
  • Diptera
  • Ecological speciation
  • Gallmaker
  • Goldenrod
  • Solidago altissima
  • Solidago gigantea
  • Sympatric speciation
  • Tephritidae


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