First Advisor

Luis A. Ruedas

Date of Publication

Fall 11-24-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Biology






Apple maggot -- Speciation -- Pacific Northwest, Apple maggot -- Adaptation -- Pacific Northwest, Apple maggot -- Evolution -- Pacific Northwest, Apple maggot -- Host plants -- Pacific Northwest, Hawthorns -- Diseases and pests -- Pacific Northwest, Insect-plant relationships



Physical Description

1 online resource (ix, 144 pages)


Speciation is the process by which life diversifies into discrete forms, and understanding its underlying mechanisms remains a primary focus for biologists. Increasingly, empirical studies are helping explain the role of ecology in generating biodiversity. Adaptive radiations are often propelled by selective fitness tradeoffs experienced by individuals that invade new habitats, resulting in reproductive isolation from ancestral conspecifics and potentially cladogenesis. Host specialist insects are among the most speciose organisms known and serve as highly useful models for studying adaptive radiations. We are just beginning to understand the pace and degree with which these insects diversify. The apple maggot, Rhagoletis pomonella, is a well-studied insect whose eastern and southern populations are models for ecological speciation. Recently (40–65 ya), the fly has invaded the Pacific Northwestern United States through human-transported apples infested with larvae. There, populations of R. pomonella have rapidly colonized two novel hawthorn hosts whose fruiting times bracket apple’s (early-season native Crataegus douglasii and introduced C. monogyna, which fruits late in the season). The recent introduction might initiate host shifts, providing opportunities to examine the pace and mechanistic means with which host races (an evolutionary stage preceding speciation) become established. Here, I demonstrate that host-associated populations at a site in southwest Washington are partially allochronically isolated from one another, and life cycles temporally match with natal host fruit ripening times in sympatry. If spatially widespread, these temporal barriers could result in reproductive isolation and possibly cladogenesis. Implications of these findings reach beyond academic import, as R. pomonella is expanding not only its host range, but its geographic range is encroaching upon central Washington, the site of a multi-billion dollar per year apple-growing industry.


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