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The thistle-infesting fruit fly Tephritis conura Loew (Diptera: Tephritidae) forms host races on the melancholy thistle, Cirsium hetewphyllum (L.) Hill (Asterales: Asteraceae) and the cabbage thistle, Cirsium olemceum (L.). Scop. Previous research indicates that the host shift occurred from C. hetewphyllum to C. oleraceum. In this paper we address whether the host shift involved physiological adaptations by studying oviposition acceptance and survival of the two host races on the derived host C. oleraceum. Performance differed significantly between host races. T. conura originating from C. oleraceum produced adults in 75% of all egg-laying trials in contrast to only 6.6% in T. conura originating from C. hetewphyllum. Population fitness components measured as a function of life-stage was linear decreasing for T. conura on C. oleraceum but stepwise for T. conura on C. heterophyllum. Low performance of T. conura on C. hetewphyllum was determined by low plant acceptance and high mortality during the larval stage, whereas hatching (at least one larva per batch) and pupae survival were not affected.