Geographic variation of host preference by the invasive tomato leaf miner Tuta absoluta: implications for host range expansion.
Host range evolution is a central issue for pest management, particularly for invasive species of agricultural importance. The invasive tomato leaf miner, Tuta absoluta Meyrick (Lepidoptera: Gelechiidae), a key pest of tomato in Europe and recently in sub-Saharan Africa, is a good model organism to better understand underlying processes. We studied oviposition acceptance (proportion of females accepting a given plant as host for laying egg), oviposition preference (number of eggs laid by females on a given host plant) and performance (offspring development estimated as survival from egg to adult) of two T. absoluta populations originating from France (FRA) and Senegal (SEN) on six solanaceous plants (tomato, eggplant, Ethiopian eggplant, potato, sweet pepper and pepper). The ovipositional behavioral pattern differed between the two populations; the SEN population showed higher oviposition acceptance on Ethiopian eggplant and sweet pepper than the FRA population. In addition, SEN population showed higher oviposition preference toward sweet pepper and potato than the FRA population. By contrast, the FRA population showed higher preference toward tomato and eggplant than the SEN population. The two populations of T. absoluta performed best on tomato (the preferred host plant) and showed similar decreasing trend in performance when comparing the two populations on the various other host plants. For both populations, performance on solanaceous plant species was closely related to ovipositional response of females to these plants. The differences observed between the two populations may indicate an ongoing differentiation in the host range of T. absoluta in the two invaded areas, possibly due to the abundance of these alternative host crops in Senegal at a period when tomato crops are scarce.