The Potential for Host Switching via Ecological Fitting in the Emerald Ash Borer-Host Plant System

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The traits used by phytophagous insects to find and utilize their ancestral hosts can lead to host range expansions, generally to closely related hosts that share visual and chemical features with ancestral hosts. Host range expansions often result from ecological fitting, which is the process whereby organisms colonize and persist in novel environments, use novel resources, or form novel associations with other species because of the suites of traits that they carry at the time they encounter the novel environment. Our objective in this review is to discuss the potential and constraints on host switching via ecological fitting in emerald ash borer, Agrilus planipennis, an ecologically and economically important invasive wood boring beetle. Once thought of as an ash (Fraxinus spp.) tree specialist, recent studies have revealed a broader potential host range than was expected for this insect. We discuss the demonstrated host-use capabilities of this beetle, as well as the potential for and barriers to the adoption of additional hosts by this beetle. We place our observations in the context of biochemical mechanisms that mediate the interaction of these beetles with their host plants and discuss whether evolutionary host shifts are a possible outcome of the interaction of this insect with novel hosts.

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