Through the process of ecological speciation, insect populations that adapt to new host plant species or to different plant tissues could speciate if such adaptations cause reproductive isolation. One of the key issues in this process is identifying the mechanisms by which adaptation in ecological traits leads directly to reproductive isolation. Here I show that within a radiation of specialist moths that pollinate and feed on yuccas, shifts in egg placement resulted in changes in female moth egg-laying structures that led to concomitant changes in male reproductive morphology. As pollinator moths evolved to circumvent the ability of yuccas to selectively abscise flowers that contain pollinator eggs, ovipositor length became shorter. Because mating occurs through the ovipositor, shortening of the ovipositor also led to significantly shorter and wider male intromittent organs. In instances where two pollinator moth species occur in sympatry and on the same host plant species, there is one short and one long ovipositor species that are reproductively isolated. Given that many plant-feeding insects lay eggs into plant tissues, changes in ovipositor morphology that lead to correlated changes in reproductive morphology may be a mechanism that maintains reproductive isolation among closely related species using the same host plant species.
- Adaptive radiation
- Ecological speciation
- Reproductive isolation
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- General Agricultural and Biological Sciences