Establishment, Hybridization, Dispersal, Impact, and Decline of Diorhabda spp. (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) Released for Biological Control of Tamarisk in Texas and New Mexico
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Three Diorhabda spp. tamarisk beetles (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) were established in Texas from 2003 to 2010 for biological control of tamarisk (Tamarix spp.): Mediterranean tamarisk beetles, D. elongata (Brullé) from Greece, also established in New Mexico; subtropical tamarisk beetles, D. sublineata (Lucas) from Tunisia; and larger tamarisk beetles, D. carinata (Faldermann) from Uzbekistan. More than one million tamarisk beetles were released at 99 sites. Species establishment success ranged from 52 to 83%. All three species now co-occur in New Mexico with the northern tamarisk beetles, D. carinulata (Desbrochers). A phenotypic hybrid scoring system was developed to assess Diorhabda phenotype distributions and character mixing in hybrid zones. Widespread field populations of bispecific hybrid phenotypes for D. carinata/D. elongata and D. sublineata/D. elongata rapidly appeared following contact of parental species. Initial distributions and dispersal of Diorhabda spp. and hybrids are mapped for Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Kansas, where they produced large-scale tamarisk defoliation and localized dieback for 3-4 yr. However, populations subsequently severely declined, now producing only isolated defoliation and allowing tamarisk to recover. Diorhabda sublineata and D. elongata temporarily produced nontarget spillover defoliation of ornamental athel, Tamarix aphylla (L.) Karst, along the Rio Grande. Hybrid phenotypes were generally bimodally distributed, indicating some degree of reproductive isolation. Additional diagnostic phenotypic characters in males allowed more precise hybrid scoring. Character mixing in some hybrid populations approached or reached that of a hybrid swarm. The significance of hybridization for tamarisk biocontrol is discussed.
author list (cited authors)
Knutson, A. E., Tracy, J. L., Ritzi, C., Moran, P. J., Royer, T., & DeLoach, C. J.