The evolution of ecological specialization has been a central topic in ecology because specialized adaptations to divergent environments can result in reproductive isolation and facilitate speciation. However, the order in which different aspects of habitat adaptation and habitat preference evolve is unclear. Timema walking-stick insects feed and mate on the host plants on which they rest. Previous studies of T. cristinae ecotypes have documented divergent, host-specific selection from visual predators and the evolution of divergent host and mate preferences between populations using different host-plant species (Ceanothus or Adenostoma). Here we present new data that show that T. podura, a nonsister species of T. cristinae, has also formed ecotypes on these host genera and that in both species these ecotypes exhibit adaptive divergence in color-pattern and host preference. Color-pattern morphs exhibit survival trade-offs on different hosts due to differential predation. In contrast, fecundity trade-offs on different hosts do not occur in either species. Thus, host preference in both species has evolved before divergent physiological adaptation but in concert with morphological adaptations. Our results shed light onto which traits are involved in the initial stages of ecological specialization and ecologically based reproductive isolation.
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Vol. 59 • No. 11