Does Sequential Speciation Amplify Biodiversity across Trophic Levels?

  • Funded By: National Science Foundation
  • ECI Investigators: Jeff Feder, Scott Egan & Jason McLachlan

Does Sequential Speciation Amplify Biodiversity across Trophic Levels?

This project determines whether the creation of a new species provides an opportunity for other organisms to take advantage of the new species and speciate in kind.  Understanding whether speciation (the evolutionary process by which new biological species arise) has rippling effects through ecosystems initiate the creation of new species has important implications for understanding the basis of biodiversity.

This research conducted by three Notre Dame professors tests if fruit flies of the genus Rhagoletis speciate by shifting and attacking new host plants, the parasitic wasps that attack the flies also speciate by following the flies and specializing on the new fly resources.  The project has practical benefits for U.S. agriculture.  Rhagoletis flies are serious pests of apples, cherries, blueberries, and several other economic crops and the question of whether the fly's parasitoids have formed new species, therefore, has important repercussions for developing effective integrated pest management strategies.  Specifically, if different wasp species attack each fly, then biocontrol efforts would need to rear and release each of the wasps separately to control each of the fly pests.  In contrast, if the wasps are all part of the same population, then a one-size-fits-all strategy focused on mass release of a single cultured wasp strain may succeed.

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