Unravelling mummies: cryptic diversity, host specificity, trophic and coevolutionary interactions in psyllid – parasitoid food webs Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • Parasitoids are hyperdiverse and can contain morphologically and functionally cryptic species, making them challenging to study. Parasitoid speciation can arise from specialisation on niches or diverging hosts. However, which process dominates is unclear because cospeciation across multiple parasitoid and host species has rarely been tested. Host specificity and trophic interactions of the parasitoids of psyllids (Hemiptera) remain mostly unknown, but these factors are fundamentally important for understanding of species diversity, and have important applied implications for biological control.We sampled diverse parasitoid communities from eight Eucalyptus-feeding psyllid species in the genera Cardiaspina and Spondyliaspis, and characterised their phylogenetic and trophic relationships using a novel approach that forensically linked emerging parasitoids with the presence of their DNA in post-emergence insect mummies. We also tested whether parasitoids have cospeciated with their psyllid hosts. The parasitoid communities included three Psyllaephagus morphospecies (two primary and, unexpectedly, one heteronomous hyperparasitoid that uses different host species for male and female development), and the hyperparasitoid, Coccidoctonus psyllae. However, the number of genetically delimited Psyllaephagus species was three times higher than the number of recognisable morphospecies, while the hyperparasitoid formed a single generalist species. In spite of this, cophylogenetic analysis revealed unprecedented codivergence of this hyperparasitoid with its primary parasitoid host, suggesting that this single hyperparasitoid species is possibly diverging into host-specific species. Overall, parasitoid and hyperparasitoid diversification was characterised by functional conservation of morphospecies, high host specificity and some host switching between sympatric psyllid hosts.We conclude that host specialisation, host codivergence and host switching are important factors driving the species diversity of endoparasitoid communities of specialist host herbivores. Specialisation in parasitoids can also result in heteronomous life histories that may be more common than appreciated. A host generalist strategy may be rare in endoparasitoids of specialist herbivores despite the high conservation of morphology and trophic roles, and endoparasitoid species richness is likely to be much higher than previously estimated. This also implies that the success of biological control requires detailed investigation to enable accurate identification of parasitoid-host interactions before candidate parasitoid species are selected as biological control agents for target pests.

authors

publication date

  • 2017