Ecological genetics of Melaleuca quinquenervia (Myrtaceae) : population variation in Florida and its influence on performance of the biological control agent Oxyops vitiosa (Coleoptera: Curculionidae)
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Melaleuca quinquenervia (Cav.) Blake (Myrtaceae) was imported into Florida from Australia over a century ago as a landscape plant. A favorable climate and periodic wildfires helped M. quinquenervia thrive; it now occupies about 200,000 hectares in southern Florida. A biological control (i.e., biocontrol) program against M. quinquenervia has been initiated, but not all biocontrol releases are successful. Some scientists have argued that poor biocontrol agent success may relate to genetic differences among populations of invasive weeds. I tested this premise by determining (1) the number and origins of M. quinquenervia introductions into Florida, (2) whether multiple introduction events resulted in the partitioning of Florida's M. quinquenervia populations into discrete biotypes, and (3) whether Oxyops vitiosa, an Australia snout beetle imported to control this weed, might discriminate among putative M. quinquenervia biotypes. Careful scrutiny of early horticultural catalogs and USDA plant introduction records suggested at least six distinct introduction events. Allozyme analyses indicated that the pattern of these introductions, and the subsequent redistribution of progeny, has resulted in geographic structuring of the populations in southern Florida. For example, trees on Florida's Gulf Coast had a greater effective number of alleles and exhibited greater heterozygosity than trees on the Atlantic Coast. Essential oil yields from M. quinquenervia leaves followed a similar trend; Gulf Coast trees yielded nearly twice as much oil as Atlantic Coast trees when both were grown in a common garden. These differences were partially explained by the predominance of a chemical phenotype (chemotype) very rich in the sesquiterpene (E)-nerolidol in M. quinquenervia trees from the Gulf Coast, but rich in a mixture of the monoterpene 1, 8-cineole and the sesquiterpene viridiflorol in trees from the Atlantic Coast. Performance of O. vitiosa differed dramatically in laboratory studies depending on the chemotype of the foliage they were fed. Larval survivorship was four-fold greater on the (E)-nerolidol chemotype. Growth was also greater, with adult O. vitiosa gaining nearly 50% more biomass on the (E)- nerolidol plants than on the second chemotype. The results of this study thus confirmed the premise that plant genotype can affect the population dynamics of insects released as weed biocontrols.
Dray, F. Allen Jr., "Ecological genetics of Melaleuca quinquenervia (Myrtaceae) : population variation in Florida and its influence on performance of the biological control agent Oxyops vitiosa (Coleoptera: Curculionidae)" (2003). FIU Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 3085.
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