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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: DEVELOPMENT & EVALUATION OF BIOLOGICAL CONTROL AGENTS FOR INVASIVE SPECIES THREATENING THE EVERGLADES & OTHER NATURAL AND MANANGED SYSTEMS

Location: Invasive Plant Research Laboratory

Title: The ecological host range of an intentionally introduced herbivore: A comparison of predicted versus actual host use.

Authors
item Pratt, Paul
item Rayamajhi, Min
item Center, Ted
item Tipping, Philip
item Wheeler, Gregory

Submitted to: Biological Control
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: January 28, 2009
Publication Date: February 5, 2009
Citation: Pratt, P.D., Rayamajhi, M.B., Center, T.D., Tipping, P.W., Wheeler, G.S. The ecological host range of an intentionally introduced herbivore: A comparison of predicted versus actual host use. Biological Control. 49:146-153. 2009.

Interpretive Summary: An underlying assumption of weed biological control asserts that laboratory-based host specificity testing accurately predicts the realized host range of herbivorous arthropods. We tested this assumption by comparing host specificity predictions with realized host range of the introduced weevil Oxyops vitiosa. Host specificity testing predicted that the weevil would complete development on only a small group of species in the Melaleuca genus, including the target host M. quinquenervia. Adult weevils readily emigrated from the surrounding M. quinquenervia trees onto potential host plants in replicated common gardens but only a small proportion occurred within the canopies of non-Melaleuca species. Adults remained within the canopies of Melaleuca congeners longer than non-Melaleuca and the former recruited 98% of all individuals dispersing from neighboring test plant species. Oviposition was predicted to occur on seven of the 19 species planted in the common gardens but was realized on only four exotic species. Consistent with the prerelease assessments, larvae were observed on four plant species but larval development was limited to Melaleuca congeners. These results lend support to the premise that risk assessments based on physiological host ranges, as characterized by laboratory testing, are conservative when compared to the realized ecological host ranges that occur under field conditions. It has been concluded that the ecological host range of O. vitiosa is highly restricted and there is low risk of colonization of non-target species in the adventive range.

Technical Abstract: An underlying assumption of weed biological control asserts that laboratory-based host specificity testing accurately predicts the realized host range of herbivorous arthropods. We tested this assumption by comparing host specificity predictions with realized host range of the introduced weevil Oxyops vitiosa. Host specificity testing predicted that the weevil would complete development on only a small group of species in the Melaleuca genus, including the target host M. quinquenervia. Adult weevils readily emigrated from the surrounding M. quinquenervia trees onto potential host plants in replicated common gardens but only a small proportion occurred within the canopies of non-Melaleuca species. Adults remained within the canopies of Melaleuca congeners longer than non-Melaleuca and the former recruited 98% of all individuals dispersing from neighboring test plant species. Oviposition was predicted to occur on seven of the 19 species planted in the common gardens but was realized on only four exotic species. Consistent with the prerelease assessments, larvae were observed on four plant species but larval development was limited to Melaleuca congeners. These results lend support to the premise that risk assessments based on physiological host ranges, as characterized by laboratory testing, are conservative when compared to the realized ecological host ranges that occur under field conditions. It has been concluded that the ecological host range of O. vitiosa is highly restricted and there is low risk of colonization of non-target species in the adventive range.

Last Modified: 8/30/2014
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