Adaptation to different environments may be a powerful source of genetic differentiation between populations. The biological traits selected in each environment can pleiotropically induce assortative mating between individuals of these genetically differentiated populations. This situation may facilitate sympatric speciation. Successful host shifts in phytophagous insects provide some of the best evidence for the ecological speciation that occurs, or has occurred, in sympatry. The European corn borer, Ostrinia nubilalis (Lepidoptera: Crambidae), colonized maize after its introduction into Europe by humans about 500 years ago. In northern France, two sympatric host races feed on maize (Zea mays) and mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris), respectively. We investigated the factors involved in the genetic isolation of these two races at a field site near Paris, France. We identified two biological differences that might make a significant contribution to the genetic divergence between sympatric populations feeding on the two host plants. First, assortative mating may be due to differences in the moth emergence pattern between the two races: mugwort-race moths emerged on average 10 days earlier than maize-race moths. In addition, the males emerged earlier than females in both races. Hence, the likelihood of mating between maize-race males and mugwort-race females was higher than that of mating between mugwort-race males and maize-race females. Second, the females feeding on mugwort and maize produced sex pheromones with different E/Z isomeric ratios of Δ-11-tetradecenyl acetate. This difference in mate recognition systems reinforces the potential for assortative mating in the two races. During the experiment, overwintering mortality was much lower on maize than on mugwort. This difference was due to a braconid parasitoid wasp, Macrocentrus cingulum, that killed more than 50% of the larvae overwintering on mugwort but did not infest larvae diapausing on maize. Hence, by colonizing maize, European corn borer populations probably escaped from numerous predators, competitors, and parasitoids, such as M. cingulum. This decrease in host-associated selection may have favored the colonization of this new host. Finally, throughout this experiment we observed selection at two allozyme loci (or at linked loci): Tpi and Mpi. The Tpi locus is tightly linked with the genes involved in the response of the male to the sex pheromone and in developmental timing. The location of these traits on the Z chromosome may play a role in shortening the time required for the evolution of premating barriers.
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