Genetic analysis of larval host-plant preference in two sibling species of Helicoverpa

Q.B. Tang, J.W. Jiang, Y.H. Yan, J.J.A. van Loon, C.Z. Wang

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The genetic basis of larval host-plant preference was investigated in reciprocal F1, F2, and backcrossed generations derived from hybrid crosses between the generalist species Helicoverpa armigera (Hu¿bner) and the closely related specialist species Helicoverpa assulta (Guene¿e) (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae). Host-plant preference for cotton [Gossypium arboreum L. (Malvaceae)] and pepper [Capsicum frutescens L. (Solanaceae)] of fifth-instar caterpillars was tested by using a two-choice leaf-disk assay. Helicoverpa armigera and H. assulta were significantly different in their feeding preferences, but the difference was not significant in the reciprocal hybrids, which showed there were no maternal/cytoplasmic effects. Comparisons of feeding preference between different groups of females or males demonstrated that the trait was not controlled by sex-linked loci. The distributions of feeding preference index values for crosses that carried similar complements of autosomal genes were not significantly different, whereas crosses with different complements of autosomal genes were associated with significantly different feeding preferences, indicating that feeding preference of the two species for cotton and pepper, respectively, is controlled by autosomal genes. It was found that one major autosomal locus affected this feeding preference, with the H. armigera-derived alleles being partially dominant to those carried by H. assulta. The genetic analysis of hybrids contributes to understand the evolution of feeding preference in these closely related species
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)221-228
JournalEntomologia Experimentalis et Applicata
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2006


  • phytophagous insects
  • drosophila-melanogaster
  • swallowtail butterflies
  • oviposition preference
  • evolutionary genetics
  • heliothis-virescens
  • foraging behavior
  • food preference
  • h-assulta
  • lepidoptera


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