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International Journal of Ecology
Volume 2012, Article ID 192345, 15 pages
Research Article

Use of Host-Plant Trait Space by Phytophagous Insects during Host-Associated Differentiation: The Gape-and-Pinch Model

Department of Biology, University of New Brunswick, P.O. Box 4400, Fredericton, NB, Canada E3B 5A3

Received 22 July 2011; Accepted 6 November 2011

Academic Editor: Andrew Hendry

Copyright © 2012 Stephen B. Heard. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Ecological speciation via host shifting has contributed to the astonishing diversity of phytophagous insects. The importance for host shifting of trait differences between alternative host plants is well established, but much less is known about trait variation within hosts. I outline a conceptual model, the “gape-and-pinch” (GAP) model, of insect response to host-plant trait variation during host shifting and host-associated differentiation. I offer four hypotheses about insect use of plant trait variation on two alternative hosts, for insects at different stages of host-associated differentiation. Collectively, these hypotheses suggest that insect responses to plant trait variation can favour or oppose critical steps in herbivore diversification. I provide statistical tools for analysing herbivore trait-space use, demonstrate their application for four herbivores of the goldenrods Solidago altissima and S. gigantea, and discuss their broader potential to advance our understanding of diet breadth and ecological speciation in phytophagous insects.