The likelihood of sympatric speciation is enhanced when assortative mating is a by-product of adaptation to different habitats. Pleiotropy of this kind is recognized as important in parasites that use their hosts as a long-range cue for finding mates, but is generally assumed to have limited applicability for most other organisms. In the larch budmoth, Zeiraphera diniana (Lepidoptera: Tortricidae), sympatric host races feed on larch or pine. Zeiraphera diniana females attract males (call) by releasing host-independent long-range pheromones. Pheromone composition differs strongly between host races, but we show in an experimental field study that cross-attraction can occur at a rate of 0.03–0.38. Cross-attraction to larch females increases when they call from neighborhoods (8-m radius) rich in pine or from pine trees. Cross-attraction to pine females similarly increases when calling from neighborhoods rich in larch, but there is no significant effect of calling substrate. Males, as well as females, of this species preferentially alight on their own host, and in neighborhoods where their own host is common. This effect of tree species and host neighborhood on assortative mating is therefore due, at least in part, to the numbers of males of each host race present within approximately 200 m2 surrounding the female. This proximity effect is enhanced by the clumped distributions of the hosts themselves. Host chemistry might also affect pheromone production and/or response directly, but we have evidence neither for nor against this. This work provides empirical evidence that host adaptation has a pleiotropic effect on assortative mating in a species with host-independent long-range mating signals. Sympatric speciation via pleiotropy between ecological traits and assortative mating may thus be more common than generally supposed: Clumped resource distributions and habitat choice by adults are widespread.
Corresponding Editor: S. Strauss