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Organismic & Evolutionary Biology
Master of Science (M.S.)
Year Degree Awarded
Month Degree Awarded
Adelges tsugae, Fiorinia externa, virulence, invasive, evolution, hemlock woolly adelgid
Throughout the eastern United States, the spread of the hemlock woolly adelgid, Adelges tsugae Annand, has caused high mortality of eastern hemlocks Tsuga canadensis (L.). We recorded overwintering survival and fecundity of A. tsugae, and tree new growth at sites in the northeastern and southeastern United States and in a common garden experiment in Massachusetts.
Overwintering mortality of A. tsugae was much higher in the north (87%) than the south (37%) in 2009, and showed significantly positive density-dependence in the north only. In 2010, overwintering mortality decreased in both regions but remained higher in the north (54%) than the south (34%), and, unlike 2009, density-dependent mortality was strongly negative in the north, and positive in the south.
In both years, sistens fecundity was significantly higher in the south than the north, but we observed no density-dependent trends, and fecundity measurements were similar in the two years.
The regional discrepancies in fecundity suggested the possibility of an evolutionary trade-off between overwintering mortality and sistens fecundity. However, when we reared samples in a common garden, we found that source region had no effect on either sistens fecundity or overwintering mortality, which suggests observed regional differences can be attributed to environmental factors rather than genetic differences.
In our regional studies, branch samples from the north had significantly more new growth than those from the south in both 2009 and 2010, even though A. tsugae densities were comparable. This difference persisted in the common garden wherein branches inoculated with northern-derived A. tsugae had significantly higher new growth than those infested with southern-derived A. tsugae. These findings raise the possibility that A. tsugae may be evolving towards reduced virulence. If true, these findings may help explain why A. tsugae is killing hemlocks much more slowly now in New England than it did when it first invaded this region more than 20 years ago, or as it is doing now in more recently invaded regions in the southern United States.
Joseph S. Elkinton