Host-race formation remains controversial as a source of herbivorous insect diversity, and examples of host races are still fairly scarce. In this study, analysis of five enzyme loci in the ostensibly generalist tumbling flower beetle Mordellistena convicta (Coleoptera: Mordellidae) revealed hidden host-plant and plant-organ related genetic differentiation. Mordellistena convicta turned out to be a complex of cryptomorphic species, each with fewer hosts than the nominal species. These cryptic species, in turn, were divided into taxa that showed host-race characteristics: samples from different host plants and organs exhibited (1) genetic indications of partial reproductive isolation, (2) differences in size and emergence timing that suggested divergent host-related selection, and (3) among-host selective differences in mortality from parasitoids. Host-race formation in M. convicta, which has a somewhat different life history from the well-studied host races, enlarges the group of insects considered likely to undergo this process. The widespread sympatry of the M. convicta species complex, along with its spectrum of host-correlated genetic differentiation, suggests that these host specialist taxa developed in sympatry.
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Vol. 59 • No. 2