Published online by Cambridge University Press: 13 February 2014
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.