Coevolution Between Herbivorous Insects and Plants: Tempo and Orchestration

  • May R. Berenbaum


For a herbivorous insect, a plant is more than just a meal — it is a way of life. For some species, just about every aspect of the life-cycle involves the plant host -eating, escape from predators, overwintering and mating, to name a few. Particularly for insects with narrow host ranges, life-cycles must coordinate or the insect misses out not only on a meal but on all those other things that make insect life worth while; thus, there must be tremendous selective pressure on insects to adapt to the peculiarities of their hosts. Walsh (1864, 1865) was among the earliest to recognize the fact that specialization by insect species on different host species is heritable and results from natural selection. A passionate early advocate of Darwinism, Walsh (1867) observed in his studies on Rhagoletis pomonella, the apple-maggot fly, that several populations of the native North American species fed not on the ancestral and typical hawthorn host (Crataegus) but rather on the introduced novel host, apple (Malus). He attributed the existence of intraspecific groups with different host usage patterns to evolution resulting from isolation due to “attachment” to different food plants. The apple-maggot fly is a species that does perform many vital functions — including mating, oviposition, and larval development — in or around its hosts. Walsh offered no explanation, however, for the motive forces behind host shifts.


Herbivorous Insect Cladistic Analysis Host Shift Phenetic Analysis Flax Rust 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Benson WW, Brown KS, Gilbert LE (1975) Coevolution of plants and herbivores: passion flower butterflies. Evolution 29: 659–680CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Berenbaum MR (1978) Toxicity of a furanocoumarin to armyworms: a case of biosynthetic escape from insect herbivores. Science 201: 532–534PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Berenbaum M (1981) Effects of linear furanocoumarins on an adapted specialist insect (Papilio polyxenes). Ecol Entomol 6: 345–351CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Berenbaum MR (1990) Evolution of specialization in insect-umbellifer associations. Ann Rev Entomol 35: 319–343CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Berenbaum MR, Zangerl AR, Nitao JK (1986) Constraints on chemical coevolution: wild parsnips and the parsnip webworm. Evolution 40: 1215–1228CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Berenbaum MR, Zangerl AR, Lee K (1989) Chemical barriers to adaptation by a specialist herbivore. Oecologia 80: 501–506CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bernays EA, Graham M (1988) On the evolution of host specificity in phytophagous arthropods. Ecology 69: 886–892CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Brooks DR (1988) Macroevolutionary comparisons of host and parasite phytogenies. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 19: 235–259Google Scholar
  9. Brues CT (1924) The specificity of food-plants in the evolution of phytophagous insects. Am Nat 58: 127–144CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Chapman I (1826) Some observations on the hessian fly; written in the year 1797. Mem Philos Soc Prom Agric 5: 143–153Google Scholar
  11. Collins GN, Kempton JH (1917) Breeding sweet corn resistant to the corn earworm. J Agric Res 11: 549–572Google Scholar
  12. Cronquist A (1968) The evolution and classification of flowering plants. Houghton Mifflin Co, Boston, MAGoogle Scholar
  13. Dawkins R, Krebs JR (1979) Arms races within and between species. Proc R Soc Lond [Biol] 205: 489–511CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Ehrlich PR, Raven PH (1964) Butterflies and plants: a study in coevolution. Evolution 18: 586–608CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Eldredge N, Cracraft J (1980) Phylogenetic patterns and the evolutionary process: method and theory in comparative biology. Columbia University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  16. de Emerenciano V, Ferreira ZS, Kaplan MAC, Gottlieb OR (1987) A chemosystematic analysis of tribes of Asteraceae involving sesquiterpene lactones and flavonoids. Phytochemistry 26: 3103–3115CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Fernandes da Silva MF, Gottlieb OR, Ehrendorfer F (1988) Chemosystematics of the Rutaceae: suggestions for a more natural taxonomy and evolutionary interpretation of the family. Pl Syst Evol 161: 97–134CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Flor HH (1955) Host-parasite interaction in flax rust — its genetics and other implications. Phytopathology 45: 680–685Google Scholar
  19. Flor HH (1956) The complementary genie systems in flax and flax rust. Adv Gen 3: 29–54CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Fraenkel GS (1959) The raison d’être of secondary plant substances. Science 12: 1466–1470CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hafner MS, Nadler SA (1988) Phylogenetic trees support the coevolution of parasites and their hosts. Nature 332: 258–259PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hancock DL (1983) Classification of the Papilionidae (Lepidoptera): a phylogenetic approach. Smithersia 2: 1–48Google Scholar
  23. Hannemann HJ (1953) Natürliche Gruppierung der Europäischen Arten der Gattung Depressaria, s.1. (Lep. Oecoph.). Mitt Zool Mus Berlin 29: 269–373CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Harlan SC (1917) A note on resistance to black scale in cotton. West Indian Bull 16: 255–256Google Scholar
  25. Hegnauer R (1973) Chemical patterns and relationships of Umbelliferae. In: Heywood VH (ed) The biology and chemistry of the Umbelliferae, pp. 267–278 (Bot J Linn Soc Suppl. 1)Google Scholar
  26. Hodges R (1974) The moths of America North of Mexico, Fas 6.2, Gelechioidea Oecophoridae. E. W. Classey, LondonGoogle Scholar
  27. Hodkinson ID (1988) Coevolution between psyllids (Homoptera: Psylloidea) and rain-forest trees: the first 120 million years. Tropical Rain Forest: The Leeds Symp. pp 187–194Google Scholar
  28. Holub M, Toman J, Herout V (1987) The phylogenetic relationships of the Asteraceae and Apiaceae based on phytochemical characters. Biochem Syst Ecol 15: 321–326CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Humphries CJ, Cox JM, Nielsen ES (1986) Nothofagus and its parasites: a cladistic approach to coevolution. In: Stone AR, Hawksworth DL (eds) Systematics Association special vol. 32 Coevolution and Systematics, Clarendon Press, Oxford, pp 55–76Google Scholar
  30. Janzen DH (1980) When is it coevolution? Evolution 34: 611–612CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Jermy T (1976) Insect-host-plant relationship — co-evolution or sequential evolution? Symp Biol Hung 16: 109–113Google Scholar
  32. Jermy T (1984) Evolution of insect/host plant relationships. Am Nat 124: 609–630CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Klocke JA, Balandrin MF, Barnby MA, Yamasaki RB (1989) Limonoids phenolics and furanocoumarins as insect antifeedants, repellents, and growth inhibitory compounds. In: Arnason JT, Philogene BJR, Morand P (eds) Insecticides of plant origin. American Chemical Society, Washington DC, pp 136–149 (ACS Symp. Series 387)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Miller JS (1987) Host-plant relationships in the Papilionidae (Lepidoptera): parallel cladogenesis or colonization? Cladistics 3: 105–120CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Mitter C, Brooks DR (1983) Phylogenetic aspects of coevolution. In: Futuyma DJ, Slatkin M (eds) Coevolution. Sinauer, Sunderland, MA, pp 65–98Google Scholar
  36. Mode CJ (1958) A mathematical model for the co-evolution of obligate parasites and their hosts. Evolution 12: 158–165CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Nault LR, DeLong DM (1980) Evidence for co-evolution of leafhoppers in the genus Dalbulus (Cicadellidae: Homoptera) with maize and its ancestors. Ann Entomol Soc Am 73: 349–353Google Scholar
  38. Ramirez RB (1974) Coevolution of Ficus (Moraceae) and Agaonidae (Hymenoptera). Ann MO Bot Gard 61: 770–780CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Richard D, Guedes M (1983) The Papilionidae (Lepidoptera): co-evolution with the angiosperms. Phyton 23: 117–126Google Scholar
  40. Roskam JC (1985) Evolutionary patterns in gall midge-host plant associations (Diptera, Cecidomyii-dae). Tijdschr Entomol 128: 193–213Google Scholar
  41. Shields O, Reveal JL (1988) Sequential evolution of EuphUotes (Lycaenidae: ScoUtantidini) on their plant host Eriogonum (Polygonaceae: Eriogonoideae). Biol J Linn Soc 33: 51–93CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Snelling RO (1941) The place and methods of breeding for insect resistance in cultivated plants. J Econ Entomol 34: 335–367Google Scholar
  43. Sperling FAH (1987) Evolution of the Papilio machaon species group in western Canada (Lepidoptera: Papilionidae). Quaest Entomol 23: 198–315Google Scholar
  44. Thompson JN (1989) Concepts of coevolution. Trends Ecol Evol 4: 179–183PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Vassiliev EM (1913) Plants serving as food for some herbivorous insects and the causes for their selection. Stud Exp Ent Stn All-Russian Soc Sugar-Refiners 1912: 63–66Google Scholar
  46. Walsh BD (1864) On phytophagic varieties and phytophagous species. Proc Entomol Soc Phila 3: 403–430Google Scholar
  47. Walsh BD (1865) On the phytophagic varieties of phytophagous species, with remarks on the unity of coloration of insects. Proc Entomol Soc Phila 5: 194–216Google Scholar
  48. Walsh BD (1867) The apple worm and the apple maggot. Am J Hort 2: 338–343Google Scholar
  49. Wapshere AJ, Helm KF (1987) Phylloxera and Vitis: an experimentally testable coevolutionary hypothesis. Am J Enol Vitic 38: 216–222Google Scholar
  50. Whittaker RH, Feeny PP (1971) Allelochemics: chemical interactions between species. Science 171: 757–770PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Wiebes JT (1979) Coevolution of figs and their insect pollinators. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 10: 1–12CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Zwölfer H, Herbst J (1988) Präadaptation, Wirtskreiserweiterung und Parallel-Cladogenese in der Evolution von phytophagen Insekten. Z Zool Syst Evolutionsforsch 26: 320–340CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Limited 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • May R. Berenbaum

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations