The stable survival of different species at the same time and place is in part explained byresource specialization. The idea behind it is that species reduce competition by specializing on different resources. However, specialization could also cause constrains on how organisms interact with each other. I am studying a novel system of weevils (Rhyssomatus spp.) that includes populations that seem to be differentially adapted to feed on stems of milkweed (Asclepias spp.). Preliminary results from 2014 showed that stem weevils manipulate milkweed plants in different ways depending on location (data not published). Some of these manipulations, such as girdling of the apical meristem, produce stem death. While in other cases this behavior never occurs; the plant is only slightly damaged at the base of the stem by the developing larva. During the field season of 2015, I will quantify the frequency of each behavior on different patches of milkweed in a latitudinal gradient, as well as, determining the effect of these different behaviors on the insect community that inhabits milkweed patches.
Principal Investigator: Anurag Agrawal