Studies on strategies of host plant use in sympatric-related species are significant to the theory of sympatric speciation. Altica fragariae Nakane and Altica koreana Ogloblin are sympatric closely related flea beetles found in Beijing, northern China. All their recorded host plants are in the subfamily Rosoideae of the Rosaceae, so we regard them as a model system to study interactions between herbivorous insects and plant-insect co-evolution. We conducted a set of experiments on the host preference and performance of these flea beetles to study whether these closely related species have the ability to use sympatric novel host plants and whether monophagous and oligophagous flea beetles use the same strategy in host plant use. Oviposition preference experiments showed that A. koreana, a monophagous flea beetle, displayed high host fidelity. However, A. fragariae, which is oligophagous, often made “oviposition mistakes,” ovipositing on nonhost plants such as Potentilla chinensis, the host plant of A. koreana, although normal host plants were preferred over novel ones. Larval performance studies suggested that A. fragariae was able to develop successfully on P. chinensis. Feeding experiences of larvae had no effect on feeding preference, oviposition preference, and fecundity of adults. However, females were impaired in their reproductive ability when fed on nonhost plants. Therefore, A. fragariae finished their development of larval stages on P. chinensis and came back to their primary host plant, Duchesnea indica, for feeding and reproduction after eclosion.
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