Evolutionary history of host use, rather than plant phylogeny, determines gene expression in a generalist butterfly

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Abstract

Although most insect species are specialized on one or few groups of plants, there are phytophagous insects that seem to use virtually any kind of plant as food. Understanding the nature of this ability to feed on a wide repertoire of plants is crucial for the control of pest species and for the elucidation of the macroevolutionary mechanisms of speciation and diversification of insect herbivores. Here we studied <Emphasis Type="Italic">Vanessa cardui</Emphasis>, the species with the widest diet breadth among butterflies and a potential insect pest, by comparing tissue-specific transcriptomes from caterpillars that were reared on different host plants. We tested whether the similarities of gene-expression response reflect the evolutionary history of adaptation to these plants in the <Emphasis Type="Italic">Vanessa</Emphasis> and related genera, against the null hypothesis of transcriptional profiles reflecting plant phylogenetic relatedness.

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Celorio-Mancera, M. D. L. P., Wheat, C. W., Huss, M., Vezzi, F., Neethiraj, R., Reimegård, J., … Janz, N. (2016). Evolutionary history of host use, rather than plant phylogeny, determines gene expression in a generalist butterfly. BMC Evolutionary Biology, 16(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12862-016-0627-y

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