Evolution of Host Range

Part of the Contemporary Topics in Entomology book series (COTE, volume 2)


In previous chapters, we addressed the mechanisms of host choice. This chapter deals with questions of the ultimate or functional bases of different host-choice patterns. What determines diet breadth and why are so many phytophagous insects relative specialists? The patterns of feeding illustrated in Chapter 1 indicate the degree to which narrow diets are common in different phytophagous insect groups. Yet, there are clearly advantages in being able to feed on many items; insect species with generalized feeding abilities can have a broad geographical range, many generations each year, and an almost certain availability of food at any time. Individuals may also take advantage of being able to select among foods to balance the nutrient intake. At face value, fitness should be greater for polyphagous species, but despite this, most species are specialists. Therefore, interest has focused on the reasons for specialization. It is generally thought that there are many factors involved in the evolution of, and maintenance of specialization, and that no one of them can be singled out as predominant. In addition, it seems likely that the underlying reasons may differ among insect groups.


Host Plant Host Range Generalist Predator Phytophagous Insect Trichome Density 


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© Chapman & Hall, New York, NY 1994

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