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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Newark, Delaware » Beneficial Insects Introduction Research Unit » Research » Research Project #431337

Research Project: Rapid Evolution in Biological Control: Implications for Safety and Effectiveness

Location: Beneficial Insects Introduction Research Unit

Project Number: 8010-22000-029-12-R
Project Type: Reimbursable Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Jul 11, 2016
End Date: Mar 14, 2019

Rapid evolution in biological control agents can have important consequences for biological control safety (non-target effects) and effectiveness (establishment and target effects). To better understand, manage and predict rapid adaptation of biological control agents to novel host plants and climates, we need to know more about how genotypes are linked with the adaptive phenotypic traits, and how those traits impact performance and fitness. Understanding adaptation at all four steps will eventually enable us to predict ‘the potential for evolution’ through molecular screening or measurement of phenotypic traits. Adaptation of a biological control agent, cinnabar moth (TYRIA JACOBAEAE), for which rapid evolution in phenology related traits and increased fitness on novel host plants have recently been demonstrated will be investigated. Increasing predictability of biological control releases will improve the safety and effectiveness of this agricultural management practice and will lead to better protection for natural resources and the environment. The results of this study will form the basis for management and policy recommendations on how to incorporate rapid evolution into biological control policy and pre-release screening, and will have application in other areas, such as conservation biology, management of invasive species and climate change ecology.

1) Common garden - reciprocal transplant – factorial experiment to: Test for genetic differentiation and local adaptation in phenotypic traits related to timing and success of life cycle events (e.g. mating, foraging); Establish the sign and strength of abiotic (climate) and biotic (host plant) selective forces; Estimate variance components of phenotypic variation traits due to genotype g, environment e, and g x e interaction; Determine performance and fitness of the phenotypes. 2) Purebred, Hybrid, and Reciprocal crosses combined with genome (DNA) and transcriptome (RNA) analysis to: Determine the underlying genetic basis of phenology and related phenotypic traits (genetic architecture); Screen patterns of association between gene regions, transcriptomes and adaptive phenotypes. 3) A natural selection experiments in populations established both in cages and open field environments to: Document change in the mean phenotype over time; Determine the time scale of adaptation; Test for repeatability of adaptive evolution; Estimate heritability of traits. 4) An observational field study to: Examine the frequency and intensity of the tested interactions; Estimate variation in phenotypic characters and genetic structure.