Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Bayesian species delimitation reveals generalist and specialist parasitic wasps on Galerucella beetles (Chrysomelidae): sorting by herbivore or plant host

Peter A Hambäck1*, Elisabet Weingartner1, Lars Ericson2, Lisa Fors1, Anna Cassel-Lundhagen3, Johan A Stenberg3 and Johannes Bergsten4

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Ecology, Environment and Plant Sciences, Stockholm University, Stockholm, SE-106 91, Sweden

2 Department of Ecology and Environmental Science, Umeå University, Umeå, SE-901 87, Sweden

3 Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology, Box 7044, Uppsala, SE-750 07, Sweden

4 Department of Entomology, Swedish Museum of Natural History, Box 50007, Stockholm, SE-10405, Sweden

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2013, 13:92  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-13-92

Published: 27 April 2013



To understand the ecological and evolutionary consequences of species interactions in food webs necessitates that interactions are properly identified. Genetic analyses suggest that many supposedly generalist parasitoid species should rather be defined as multiple species with a more narrow diet, reducing the probability that such species may mediate indirect interactions such as apparent competition among hosts. Recent studies showed that the parasitoid Asecodes lucens mediate apparent competition between two hosts, Galerucella tenella and G. calmariensis, affecting both interaction strengths and evolutionary feedbacks. The same parasitoid was also recorded from other species in the genus Galerucella, suggesting that similar indirect effects may also occur for other species pairs.


To explore the possibility of such interactions, we sequenced mitochondrial and nuclear genetic markers to resolve the phylogeny of both host and parasitoid and to test the number of parasitoid species involved. We thus collected 139 Galerucella larvae from 8 host plant species and sequenced 31 adult beetle and 108 parasitoid individuals.


The analysis of the Galerucella data, that also included sequences from previous studies, verified the five species previously documented as reciprocally monophyletic, but the Bayesian species delimitation for A. lucens suggested 3–4 cryptic taxa with a more specialised host use than previously suggested. The gene data analyzed under the multispecies coalescent model allowed us to reconstruct the species tree phylogeny for both host and parasitoid and we found a fully congruent coevolutionary pattern suggesting that parasitoid speciation followed upon host speciation.


Using multilocus sequence data in a Bayesian species delimitation analysis we propose that hymenopteran parasitoids of the genus Asecodes that infest Galerucella larvae constitute at least three species with narrow diet breath. The evolution of parasitoid Asecodes and host Galerucella show a fully congruent coevolutionary pattern. This finding strengthens the hypothesis that the parasitoid in host search uses cues of the host rather than more general cues of both host and plant.