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Diet breadth and its relationship with genetic diversity and differentiation: the case of southern beech aphids (Hemiptera: Aphididae)

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 March 2007

C. Gaete-Eastman
Centro de Investigación en Biotecnología Silvoagrícola, Instituto de Biología Vegetal y Biotecnología, Universidad de Talca, Casilla 747, Talca, Chile
C.C. Figueroa
Instituto de Ecología y Evolución, Universidad Austral de Chile, Casilla 567, Valdivia, Chile
R. Olivares-Donoso
Departamento de Ciencias Ecológicas, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de Chile, Casilla 653, Santiago, Chile
H.M. Niemeyer
Departamento de Ciencias Ecológicas, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de Chile, Casilla 653, Santiago, Chile
C.C. Ramírez*
Centro de Investigación en Biotecnología Silvoagrícola, Instituto de Biología Vegetal y Biotecnología, Universidad de Talca, Casilla 747, Talca, Chile
*Fax: 56 71 200 276 E-mail:


Herbivorous insect species with narrow diet breadth are expected to be more prone to genetic differentiation than insect species with a wider diet breadth. However, a generalist can behave as a local specialist if a single host-plant species is locally available, while a specialist can eventually behave as a generalist if its preferred host is not available. These problems can be addressed by comparing closely related species differing in diet breadth with overlapping distributions of insect and host populations. In this work, diet breadth, genetic diversity and population differentiation of congeneric aphid species from southern beech forests in Chile were compared. While at the species level no major differences in genetic diversity were found, a general trend towards higher genetic diversity as diet breadth increased was apparent. The aphid species with wider diet breadth, Neuquenaphis edwardsi (Laing), showed the highest genetic diversity, while the specialist Neuquenaphis staryi Quednau & Remaudière showed the lowest. These differences were less distinct when the comparisons were made in the same locality and over the same host. Comparison of allopatric populations indicates that genetic differentiation was higher for the specialists, Neuquenaphis similis Hille Ris Lambers and N. staryi, than for the generalist N. edwardsi. Over the same host at different locations, genetic differentiation among populations of N. edwardsi was higher than among populations of N. similis. The results support the assumption that specialists should show more pronounced genetic structuring than generalists, although the geographical distribution of host plants may be playing an important role.

Review Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2004

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