Geographic isolation trumps coevolution as a driver of yucca and yucca moth diversification

David M. Althoff, Kari A. Segraves, Christopher I. Smith, James Leebens-Mack, Olle Pellmyr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


Coevolution is thought to be especially important in diversification of obligate mutualistic interactions such as the one between yuccas and pollinating yucca moths. We took a three-step approach to examine if plant and pollinator speciation events were likely driven by coevolution. First, we tested whether there has been co-speciation between yuccas and pollinator yucca moths in the genus Tegeticula (Prodoxidae). Second, we tested whether co-speciation also occurred between yuccas and commensalistic yucca moths in the genus Prodoxus (Prodoxidae) in which reciprocal evolutionary change is unlikely. Finally, we examined the current range distributions of yuccas in relationship to pollinator speciation events to determine if plant and moth speciation events likely occurred in sympatry or allopatry. Co-speciation analyses of yuccas with their coexisting Tegeticula pollinator and commensalistic Prodoxus lineages demonstrated phylogenetic congruence between both groups of moths and yuccas, even though moth lineages differ in the type of interaction with yuccas. Furthermore, Yucca species within a lineage occur primarily in allopatry rather than sympatry. We conclude that biogeographic factors are the overriding force in plant and pollinator moth speciation and significant phylogenetic congruence between the moth and plant lineages is likely due to shared biogeography rather than coevolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)898-906
Number of pages9
JournalMolecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2012


  • Co-speciation
  • Mutualism
  • Pollination
  • Prodoxus
  • Tegeticula

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


Dive into the research topics of 'Geographic isolation trumps coevolution as a driver of yucca and yucca moth diversification'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this