Jack of all trades masters novel host plants: Positive genetic correlations in specialist and generalist insect herbivores expanding their diets to novel hosts

C. García-Robledo, Carol C Horvitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

33 Scopus citations


One explanation for the widespread host specialization of insect herbivores is the 'Jack of all trades-master of none' principle, which states that genotypes with high performance on one host will perform poorly on other hosts. This principle predicts that cross-host correlation in performance of genotypes will be negative. In this study, we experimentally explored cross-host correlations and performance among families in four species (two generalist and two specialist) of leaf beetles (Cephaloleia spp.) that are currently expanding their diets from native to exotic plants. All four species displayed similar responses in body size, developmental rates and mortality rates to experimentally controlled diets. When raised on novel hosts, body size of larvae, pupae and adults were reduced. Development times were longer, and larval mortality was higher on novel hosts. Genotype×host-plant interactions were not detected for most traits. All significant cross-host correlations were positive. These results indicate very different ecological and evolutionary dynamics than those predicted by the 'Jack of all trades-master of none' principle.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)38-53
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Evolutionary Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2012



  • Cephaloleia spp.
  • Costa Rica
  • Diet expansions
  • Exotic hosts
  • Genetic correlations
  • Tropical rain forest
  • Zingiberales

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

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