ARTICLE | doi:10.20944/preprints201902.0215.v4
Subject: Biology And Life Sciences, Insect Science Keywords: coevolution; herbivory; host-plant specialization; phylogeny; speciation
Online: 17 October 2019 (10:12:05 CEST)
During the last two decades, ecological speciation has been a major research theme in evolutionary biology. Ecological speciation occurs when reproductive isolation between populations evolves as a result of niche differentiation. Phytophagous insects represent model systems for the study of this evolutionary process. The host-plants on which these insects feed and often spend parts of their life cycle constitute ideal agents of divergent selection for these organisms. Adaptation to feeding on different host-plant species can potentially lead to ecological specialization of populations and subsequent speciation. This process is thought to have given birth to the astonishing diversity of phytophagous insects and is often put forward in macroevolutionary scenarios of insect diversification. Consequently, numerous phylogenetic studies on phytophagous insects have aimed at testing whether speciation driven by host-plant adaptation is the main pathway for the diversification of the groups under investigation. The increasing availability of comprehensive and well-resolved phylogenies and the recent developments in phylogenetic comparative methods are offering an unprecedented opportunity to test hypotheses on insect diversification at a macroevolutionary scale, in a robust phylogenetic framework. Our purpose here is to review the contribution of phylogenetic analyses to investigate the importance of plant-mediated speciation in the diversification of phytophagous insects and to present suggestions for future developments in this field.