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Open AccessConcept Paper

Generalism in Nature…The Great Misnomer: Aphids and Wasp Parasitoids as Examples

1
School of Biosciences, Cardiff University, The Sir Martin Evans Building, Museum Avenue, Cardiff, Wales CF10 3AX, UK
2
Department of Horticulture, Faculty of Technical and Human Science, Sapientia Hungarian University of Transylvania, Sighisoara Str. 1C., 540485 Tirgu-Mures, Romania
3
Department of Terrestrial Ecology, Netherlands Institute of Ecology, Droevendaalsesteeg 10, 6708 PB Wageningen, The Netherlands
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Insects 2019, 10(10), 314; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects10100314
Received: 31 July 2019 / Revised: 4 September 2019 / Accepted: 16 September 2019 / Published: 24 September 2019
In the present article we discuss why, in our view, the term ‘generalism’ to define the dietary breadth of a species is a misnomer and should be revised by entomologists/ecologists with the more exact title relating to the animal in question’s level of phagy—mono-, oligo, or polyphagy. We discard generalism as a concept because of the indisputable fact that all living organisms fill a unique ecological niche, and that entry and exit from such niches are the acknowledged routes and mechanisms driving ecological divergence and ultimately speciation. The term specialist is probably still useful and we support its continuing usage simply because all species and lower levels of evolutionary diverge are indeed specialists to a large degree. Using aphids and parasitoid wasps as examples, we provide evidence from the literature that even some apparently highly polyphagous agricultural aphid pest species and their wasp parasitoids are probably not as polyphagous as formerly assumed. We suggest that the shifting of plant hosts by herbivorous insects like aphids, whilst having positive benefits in reducing competition, and reducing antagonists by moving the target organism into ‘enemy free space’, produces trade-offs in survival, involving relaxed selection in the case of the manicured agro-ecosystem. View Full-Text
Keywords: adaptation; antifeedants; aphids; chemotype; ecology; evolution; phagy; relaxed selection; specialism; generalism adaptation; antifeedants; aphids; chemotype; ecology; evolution; phagy; relaxed selection; specialism; generalism
MDPI and ACS Style

Loxdale, H.D.; Balog, A.; Harvey, J.A. Generalism in Nature…The Great Misnomer: Aphids and Wasp Parasitoids as Examples. Insects 2019, 10, 314.

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