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Effects of reproductive interference on the competitive displacement between two invasive whiteflies

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 February 2014

Di-Bing Sun
Ministry of Agriculture Key Laboratory of Agricultural Entomology, Institute of Insect Sciences, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou 310058, China
Jie Li
Ministry of Agriculture Key Laboratory of Agricultural Entomology, Institute of Insect Sciences, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou 310058, China
Yin-Quan Liu
Ministry of Agriculture Key Laboratory of Agricultural Entomology, Institute of Insect Sciences, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou 310058, China
David W. Crowder
Department of Entomology, Washington State University, 166 FSHN Building, PO Box 646382, Pullman, WA 99164, USA
Shu-Sheng Liu*
Ministry of Agriculture Key Laboratory of Agricultural Entomology, Institute of Insect Sciences, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou 310058, China
*Author for correspondence Phone: +86 571 88982505 Fax: +86 571 88982355 E-mail:


Reproductive interference is one of the major factors mediating species exclusion among insects. The cryptic species Middle East-Asia Minor 1 (MEAM1) and Mediterranean (MED) of the whitefly Bemisia tabaci complex have invaded many parts of the world and often exhibit niche overlap and reproductive interference. However, contrasting patterns of competitive displacement between the two invaders have been observed between regions such as those in USA and China. Understanding the roles of reproductive interference in competitive interactions between populations of the two species in different regions will help unravel other factors related to their invasion. We integrated laboratory population experiments, behavioural observations and simulation modelling to investigate the role of reproductive interference on species exclusion between MEAM1 and MED in China. In mixed cohorts of the two species MEAM1 always excluded MED in a few generations when the initial proportion of MEAM1 was ⩾0.25. Even when the initial proportion of MEAM1 was only 0.10, however, MEAM1 still had a higher probability of excluding MED than that for MED to exclude MEAM1. Importantly, we show that as MEAM1 increased in relative abundance, MED populations became increasingly male-biased. Detailed behavioural observations confirmed that MEAM1 showed a stronger reproductive interference than MED, leading to reduced frequency of copulation and female progeny production in MED. Using simulation modelling, we linked our behavioural observations with exclusion experiments to show that interspecific asymmetric reproductive interference predicts the rate of species exclusion of MED by MEAM1. These findings not only reveal the importance of reproductive interference in the competitive interactions between the two invasive whiteflies as well as the detailed behavioural mechanisms, but also provide a valuable framework against which the effects of other factors mediating species exclusion can be explored.

Research Paper
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2014 

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