Within the Coleoptera, the largest order in the animal kingdom, the exclusively herbivorous Chrysomelidae are recognized as one of the most species rich beetle families. The evolutionary processes that have fueled radiation into the more than thirty-five thousand currently recognized leaf beetle species remain partly unresolved. The prominent role of leaf beetles in the insect world, their omnipresence across all terrestrial biomes and their economic importance as common agricultural pest organisms make this family particularly interesting for studying the mechanisms that drive diversification. Here we specifically focus on two ecotypes of the alpine leaf beetle Oreina speciosissima (Scop.), which have been shown to exhibit morphological differences in male genitalia roughly corresponding to the subspecies Oreina speciosissima sensu stricto and Oreina speciosissima troglodytes. In general the two ecotypes segregate along an elevation gradient and by host plants: Oreina speciosissima sensu stricto colonizes high forb vegetation at low altitude and Oreina speciosissima troglodytes is found in stone run vegetation at higher elevations. Both host plants and leaf beetles have a patchy geographical distribution. Through use of gene sequencing and genome fingerprinting (AFLP) we analyzed the genetic structure and habitat use of Oreina speciosissima populations from the Swiss Alps to examine whether the two ecotypes have a genetic basis. By investigating a wide range of altitudes and focusing on the structuring effect of habitat types, we aim to provide answers regarding the factors that drive adaptive radiation in this phytophagous leaf beetle.
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