Tree hybridization and genotypic variation drive cryptic speciation of a specialist mite herbivore

Luke M. Evans, Gerard J. Allan, Stephen M. Shuster, Scott A. Woolbright, Thomas G. Whitham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Few studies have investigated the roles that plant hybridization and individual plant genotype play in promoting population divergence within arthropod species. Using nrDNA sequence information and reciprocal transfer experiments, we examined how tree cross type (i.e., pure Populus angustifolia and P. angustifolia × P. fremontii F1 type hybrids) and individual tree genotype influence host race formation in the bud-galling mite Aceria parapopuli. Three main findings emerged: (1) Strong genetic differentiation of mite populations found on pure P. angustifolia and F 1 type hybrids indicates that these mites represent morphologically cryptic species. (2) Within the F1 type hybrids, population genetic analyses indicate migration among individual trees; however, (3) transfer experiments show that the mites found on heavily infested F1 type trees perform best on their natal host genotype, suggesting that genetic interactions between mites and their host trees drive population structure, local adaptation, and host race formation. These findings argue that hybridization and genotypic differences in foundation tree species may drive herbivore population structure, and have evolutionary consequences for dependent arthropod species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3027-3040
Number of pages14
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2008


  • Aceria parapopuli
  • Cryptic speciation
  • Foundation species
  • Host race formation
  • Hybridization
  • Populus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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