Diversification of phytophagous insects is often associated with changes in the use of host taxa and host parts. We focus on a group of newly discovered neotropical tephritids in the genus Blepharoneura and report the discovery of an extraordinary number of sympatric, morphologically cryptic species all feeding as larvae on calyces of flowers of a single functionally dioecious and highly sexually dimorphic host species (Gurania spinulosa) in eastern Ecuador. Molecular analyses of the mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase I gene from flies reared from flowers of G. spinulosa reveal six distinct haplotype groups that differ by 7.2-10.1% bp (uncorrected pairwise distances; N=624 bp). Haplotype groups correspond to six distinct and well-supported clades. Members of five clades specialize on the calyces of flowers of a particular sex: three clades comprise male flower specialists; two clades comprise female flower specialists; the sixth clade comprises generalists reared from male and female flowers. The six clades occupy significantly different morphological spaces defined by wing pigmentation patterns; however, diagnostic morphological characters were not discovered. Behavioral observations suggest specific courtship behaviors may play a role in maintaining reproductive isolation among sympatric species.
John Gammons, ’08 Beaverton, OR
Majors: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Environmental Studies
Marty Condon, Ph.D.
Iowa State University
Kacie Flaherty, ’05
Major: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Jessica Johnson, ’07 Maryland Heights, MO
Sara Marsteller, ’07 Alliance, NE
Frank Serna, ’06
Majors: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Biology, Computer Science
Sponsor: Marty Condon