A small-tiled geographic mosaic of coevolution between Eurosta solidaginis and its natural enemies and host plant

Timothy P. Craig, Annelie Livingston-Anderson, Joanne K. Itami

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We identified a geographic mosaic of Eurosta solidaginis fly traits produced by coevolution of the stem gall-forming fly with both its natural enemies and its host plants at small geographic scales in the presence of gene flow. These tritrophic interactions between the fly with its natural enemies and with its host-plant Solidago altissima produced what has been termed a small-tiled geographic mosaic of coevolution. Selection on gall diameter and length varies between prairie and forest habitats due to differences in host plants and natural-enemy communities. At the prairie–forest ecotone where prairie and forest habitats are intermixed, we found that geographic selection mosaics on gall diameter and length varied on a scale of a few kilometers. Gall diameter variation among sites correlated with selection on gall diameters, indicating local adaptation. In contrast, gall lengths did not correlate with selection, indicating that gene flow may have prevented local adaptation of this trait. Eastern (forest) and western (prairie) subspecies of E. solidaginis have been proposed based on fly wing patterns, and these had intermediate forms in the ecotone indicating gene flow between these subspecies. Variation in wing patterns correlated with gall diameter, indicating that gene flow between prairie and forest fly populations may influence the distribution of gall traits. The ratio of forest to prairie vegetation increases with latitude, but there was no indication of latitudinal clines in gall or wing traits. Our results indicate that selection for differentiation in coevolved traits is strong enough to overcome gene flow in small tiles of habitat. The result is that ecological forces produce a dynamic mosaic of genetically differentiated locally adapted populations. It also indicates that prairie and forest host races of E. solidaginis form a mosaic hybrid zone in this region.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere03182
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
1 We thank the University of Minnesota Duluth Duluth for providing funding for the authors; the undergraduate students, E. Kalkbrenner, L. Craig, C. Schimke, M. Knowles, W. Licht, N. Zarnstorff; and the graduate students K. Anderson and C. Hafdal, who contributed to the project. Funding was also provided by the National Science Foundation (DEB 0801000) and Sigma Xi. We thank D. Shubat for help with goldenrod propagation and Josh Horky for integrating the GPS coordinates of the research sites onto the Marschner map to create Fig. . The manuscript was improved by insightful comments by W. Abrahamson and J. Pastor and comments from J. Horner J. Pastor, R. Green, and A. Forbes on a previous version of this manuscript.


  • Eurosta solidaginis
  • Solidago altissima
  • local adaptation
  • three trophic level coevolution

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