Lethal Interactions Between Parasites and Prey Increase Niche Diversity in a …

Abstract

Ecological specialization should minimize niche overlap, yet herbivorous neotropical flies (Blepharoneura) and their lethal parasitic wasps (parasitoids) exhibit both extreme specialization and apparent niche overlap in host plants.
From just two plant species at one site in Peru, we collected 3636 flowers yielding 1478 fly pupae representing 14 Blepharoneura fly species, 18 parasitoid species (14 Bellopius species), and parasitoid-host associations, all discovered through analysis of molecular data. Multiple sympatric species
specialize on the same sex flowers of the same fly host-plant species—which suggests extreme niche overlap; however, niche
partitioning was exposed by interactions between wasps and flies. Most Bellopius species emerged as adults from only one fly species, yet evidence from pupae (preadult emergence samples) show that most
Bellopius also attacked additional fly species but never emerged as adults from those flies.