Plant-herbivorous beetle networks: molecular characterization of trophic ecology within a threatened steppic environment

Kajtoch, L.; Kubisz, D.; Heise, W.; Mazur, M.A.; Babik, W.. 2015 Plant-herbivorous beetle networks: molecular characterization of trophic ecology within a threatened steppic environment. Molecular Ecology, 24 (15). 4023-4038.

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DNA barcoding facilitates many evolutionary and ecological studies, including the examination of the dietary diversity of herbivores. In this study, we present a survey of ecological associations between herbivorous beetles and host plants from seriously threatened European steppic grasslands. We determined host plants for the majority (65%) of steppic leaf beetles (55 species) and weevils (59) known from central Europe using two barcodes (trnL and rbcL) and two sequencing strategies (Sanger for mono/oligophagous species and Illumina for polyphagous taxa). To better understand the ecological associations between steppic beetles and their host plants, we tested the hypothesis that leaf beetles and weevils differ in food selection as a result of their phylogenetic relations (within genera and between families) and interactions with host plants. We found 224 links between the beetles and the plants. Beetles belonging to seven genera feed on the same or related plants. Their preferences were probably inherited from common ancestors and/or resulted from the host plant's chemistry. Beetles from four genera feed on different plants, possibly reducing intrageneric competition and possibly due to an adaptation to different plant chemical defences. We found significant correlations between the numbers of leaf beetle and weevil species feeding on particular plants for polyphagous taxa, but not for nonpolyphagous beetles. Finally, we found that the previous identifications of host plants based on direct observations are generally concordant with host plant barcoding from insect gut. Our results expand basic knowledge about the trophic relations of steppic beetles and plants and are immediately useful for conservation purposes.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Emmett
ISSN: 0962-1083
Additional Keywords: Chrysomelidae, Curculionidae, DNA barcoding, host plant, molecular ecology, xerothermic grasslands
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 04 Feb 2016 17:21 +0 (UTC)

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