The impact of redefined species limits in Palame (Coleoptera: Cerambycidae: Lamiinae: Acanthocinini) on assessments of host, seasonal, and stratum specificity
Assumptions about the host and stratum specificity of tropical insects are routinely incorporated into estimates of global species richness, but few empirical studies reliably assess tropical insect specificity. In French Guiana, cerambycid beetles in the genus Palame reproduce exclusively in trees belonging to the Brazil nut family (Lecythidaceae). During a year-long rearing project, Palame anceps (Bates) emerged exclusively from a single host species, but P. crassimana Bates and P. mimetica Monné appeared to make seasonal changes in host affiliation. In the case of P. crassimana, dry season specimens could be distinguished from rainy season specimens by subtle differences in pubescence, but it was difficult to find diagnostic morphological characters supporting their delimitation as separate species. In order to detect genetic differentiation in Palame, 1049 bp of mitochondrial DNA (COI gene) were sequenced. The three nominal species of Palame yielded six haplotype groups, with sequence divergences among groups ranging from 8.27 to 17.56%. Species with apparent seasonal changes in host use included multiple distinct haplotype groups that I interpret to represent multiple species-level taxa. Insects considered generalized owing to temporal or geographical changes in host association may, with improved resolution in species limits, prove to be assemblages including relatively specialized cryptic species. © 2002 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2002, 76, 195–209.