Speciation by host-switching in pinyon Cinara (Insecta: Hemiptera: Aphididae)

Colin Favret, David J. Voegtlin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Parasite-host cospeciation has received much attention as an important mechanism in the diversification of phytophagous insects. However, studies have shown that for certain taxa, it is not host fidelity but host-switching that plays the critical role in speciation. Cinara are aphids (Insecta: Hemiptera: Aphididae: Lachninae) that feed exclusively on the woody parts of conifers of the Cupressaceae and Pinaceae. They are unusual aphids because most Pinaceae play host to several species of Cinara. The aphids show relatively strong host fidelity, and as a consequence historically have been treated based on the taxonomy of their hosts. The historical paradigm of aphid evolution implies that Cinara species have radiated to different parts of the same host species and/or speciated with their host. Using mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase 1 and nuclear elongation factor 1-α DNA sequences, we performed molecular phylogenetic analysis of Cinara species, concentrating on those associated with pinyon pines in the southwestern USA. We determined that switching hosts has played a key role in the speciation of the genus, reflected in the polyphyly of pinyon-feeding Cinara. Furthermore, species sharing a common feeding site on different hosts were more closely related to each other than to those sharing the same host but at different feeding sites, suggesting that feeding site fidelity plays a more important role in speciation than does host fidelity in general. This study also elucidated the primary taxonomy of various species: it suggested that Cinara rustica Hottes is a junior synonym of C. edulis (Wilson) and that C. wahtolca Hottes represents two species on the two different pinyon pine species, Pinus edulis Englem. and P. monophylla Torr. & Frem.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)139-151
Number of pages13
JournalMolecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2004


  • Aphididae
  • Cinara
  • Cytochrome oxidase I
  • Elongation factor 1-α
  • Host association
  • Pinus edulis
  • Pinus monophylla
  • Speciation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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