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Preference–performance relationship and influence of plant relatedness on host use by Pityogenes chalcographus L.

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Pityogenes chalcographus L. (Coleoptera: Scolytinae) causes damage in European coniferous forests, primarily on Picea abies L. Karst., but is also recorded on other native and exotic Pinaceae species. Estimating the adequacy between adult preference and larval performance of this beetle among its host-range, as well as the influence of plant taxonomic relatedness on these parameters, would provide useful information on the beetle's ability to shift onto novel hosts.

• Choice and no-choice assays were conducted under laboratory conditions. Adult preference and larval performance parameters among two native (Pinus sylvestris L. and Picea abies) and three exotic north American [Pinus contorta Dougl., Picea sitchensis (Bong.) Carr. and Pseudotsuga menziesii Mirbel (Franco)] conifer species were measured.

Pityogenes chalcographus exhibited a significant positive relationship between preference and performance. Picea abies was both the preferred and the most suitable host species for larval development. The closest relative, P. sitchensis, was the second best choice in terms of preference and performance. Pseudotsuga menziesii occupied an intermediate position for both beetle preference and performance, and Pinus spp. were the least suitable hosts for beetle development.

• Adult preference and larval performance ranking among hosts provides little support to the plant taxonomic relatedness hypothesis. Taxonomic relatedness could play a role on the diet breadth, although only at a limited scale, within the genus Picea. At higher taxonomic levels, other factors such as bark thickness might be decisive.
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