Don Cipollini (Committee Member), Jeffrey Peters (Committee Member), John Stireman (Advisor)
Master of Science (MS)
Some of the world's greatest mysteries are the series of ecological and behavioral processes that promote adaptive radiation: when one species rapidly diverges into multiple descendants due to ecological selective pressures. Selective pressures from natural enemies have the potential to drive such radiations, as has been suggested in the diversification of the goldenrod gall-midge, Asteromyia carbonifera (Stireman et al., 2008, 2012). This complex, multitrophic system involves the midge species complex, their goldenrod host plants (Solidago sp.), and a suite of parasitoid enemies in the diverse wasp superfamily, Chalcidoidea. There is evidence that the midge is undergoing host-associated differentiation (HAD), in which it is rapidly diversifying into genetically distinct races on different Solidago host plants in sympatry (Stireman et al., 2006; 2010). Because the parasitoids may use host plant cues to locate the midges, they may drive midges to shift to new host plants, facilitating population divergence. Subsequently, the parasitoids may eventually colonize the midges on these novel plants and undergo HAD themselves, in a cascading process (Stireman et al., 2006). I used this tritrophic system as a model to understand how interactions between plants, herbivores, and parasitoids drive insect diversification and shape ecological communities.
Department or Program
Department of Biological Sciences
Year Degree Awarded
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