Diffuse coevolution between two Epicephala species (Gracillariidae) and two Breynia species (Phyllanthaceae).
The diffuse coevolution between two moth species (Epicephala lativalvaris and E. mirivalvata) and two plant species (Breynia fruticosa and B. rostrata) is reported based on field observations and indoor experiments conducted in Hainan and Fujian, China. Study results showed that the two Epicephala species jointly pollinated the two Breynia species, which led to a unique obligate pollination mutualism of two-to-two species specificity. A single Epicephala larva exclusively fed on seeds of host plants and developed to maturity by consuming all six seeds of each fruit, whereas a fraction of intact fruits were left to ensure the reproduction of plants within the whole population. Larvae of the two Epicephala species are competitive for resources; the population of E. mirivalvata is much smaller than that of E. lativalvaris, which has resulted from the differences in the female ovipositor structures and oviposition mode. The life history of Epicephala species highly coincides with the phenology of Breynia plants, and different phenology of B. fruticosa resulted in the different life history of the two Epicephala species in Hainan and Fujian. The natural hybridization of two host plants, possibly induced by the alternate pollination of two Epicephala species, is briefly discussed.