Host plant associations in Western Palaearctic Longitarsus flea beetles (Chrysomelidae, Galerucinae, Alticini): a preliminary phylogenetic assessment
expand article infoDaniele Salvi§, Paola D’Alessandro, Maurizio Biondi
‡ University of L’Aquila, L’Aquila, Italy
§ Universidade do Porto, Vairão, Portugal
Open Access


Longitarsus Latreille (Chrysomelidae, Galerucinae, Alticini) is a very large genus of phytophagous insects, with more than 700 species distributed in all zoogeographical regions. Patterns of host use have been a central topic in phytophagous insect research. In this study a first assessment is provided to test the hypothesis that host-plant association is phylogenetically conserved in Western Palaearctic Longitarsus species. Maximum Likelihood and Bayesian Inference methods were used to infer a phylogeny based on DNA sequence data from two mitochondrial genes from 52 Longitarsus species from the Western Palaearctic. In agreement with the host phylogenetic conservatism hypothesis, a strict association between most of the recovered clades and specific plant families was found, except for species associated with Boraginaceae. Low phylogenetic resolution at deep nodes limited the evaluation of whether closely related Longitarsus clades are associated with the same plant family or to closely related plant families.


Longitarsus, molecular phylogeny, Palaearctic region, phylogenetic conservatism in host use, phytophagous insects


Longitarsus Latreille, 1829 is a mega-diverse genus of phytophagous insects and the most speciose among flea beetles (Chrysomelidae, Galerucinae, Alticini) with more than 700 known species. It is widespread through all zoogeographical regions (Furth 2007, Biondi and D’Alessandro 2010, 2012, Döberl 2010, Prathapan and Viraktamath 2011, Reid 2017, unpublished data). Longitarsus is also ecologically diversified with specialized feeders, monophagous or oligophagous (Schoonhoven et al. 2005), on different angiosperm families. Larvae feed mostly on roots, and adults target leaves of their host plants (Dobler et al. 2000, Furth 1980). The monophyly of Longitarsus is accepted based on molecular evidence (Gómez-Rodríguez et al. 2015, Nie et al. 2018). Members of the genus are recognized mainly by the length of first metatarsomere, exceeding half-length of hind tibia, along with confuse elytral punctuation and absence of dorsal pubescence (Biondi and D’Alessandro 2012).

Relationships among Chrysomelidae and their host plants has been investigated from a biochemical, behavioural, and phylogenetic point of view, and at various taxonomic levels, often with the aim of understanding the biology of actual or potential pests (Jolivet and Hawkeswood 1995, Becerra and Vernable 1999, Dobler et al. 2000, Clark et al. 2004, Fernandez and Hilker 2007, Kergoat et al. 2007, Reid 2017). Understanding the mechanisms which drive observed host-use patterns has been a central topic in phytophagous insect research. Among the non-mutually exclusive hypotheses proposed (Gripenberg et al. 2010, Balagawi et al. 2013, Charlery de la Masselière et al. 2017, Kergoat et al. 2017, Lima Bergamini et al. 2017, Jones et al. 2019), the phylogenetic conservatism states that the phylogeny of host plants strongly constrains host affiliations. The phylogenetic conservatism hypothesis is widely demonstrated, even though it can be masked to varying degrees of convergent evolution in both plant and herbivore traits, and/or by phenotypic plasticity of both plants and herbivores; in addition, evolutionary processes that have generated phylogenetic conservatism patterns often remain unclear (Fernandez and Hilker 2007, Kergoat et al. 2017, Lima Bergamini et al. 2017). A comprehensive phylogenetic assessment of the insect-host plant relationship in the genus Longitarsus is still lacking, as well as comprehensive systematic studies on the genus.

In this paper, we conduct a molecular phylogenetic analysis on 52 Western Palaearctic Longitarsus species to map host plant data in order to assess whether the pattern observed is consistent with the phylogenetic conservatism hypothesis. If it is consistent, we would expect to find a) closely related Longitarsus species (single clades) to be associated with a specific plant family; b) Longitarsus clades associated with a specific plant family to form a single lineage.


Dataset, DNA extraction, amplification, and sequencing

We analysed 52 Longitarsus species (Table 1) from the Western Palaearctic, i.e., with distribution ranges centred on the Western Palaearctic area up to Urals, Caucasus, Anatolia, Iran, Near East, North Africa, and Macaronesia. Data on species distribution were mainly from Döberl (2010), and Gruev and Döberl (1997, 2005).

Information on host plants, collection, and GenBank accession numbers for the 52 species of Longitarsus and Batophila aerata (outgroup) used in this study.

Species Host plant family Trophic Range Source for molecular analysis Permits Deposits GenBank accession number
cox1 16S
Batophila aerata (Marsham) Rosaceae OLI Italy, Abruzzo (AQ), Roio Piano, 42°20'00.85"N 13°20'06.28"E, 930 m a.s.l., 13.v.2017, adult on Rubus sp. (Rosaceae) [det. M. Biondi, voucher db37] not needed Collection M. Biondi, University of L’Aquila (Italy) requested requested
Longitarsus aeneicollis (Faldermann) Asteraceae, Boraginaceae, Lamiaceae POL Italy, Abruzzo (TE), Prati di Tivo, 42°30'26.40"N 13°33'14.46"E; 1344 m a.s.l., 11.vii.2018, adult on Boraginaceae [det. M. Biondi, voucher db46] Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga National Park. Prot. n. 0007403/18 Collection M. Biondi, University of L’Aquila (Italy) requested requested
Longitarsus aeneus Kutschera Boraginaceae OLI Italy, Abruzzo (TE), Guazzano, 42°44'03.6"N 13°38'49.8"E, 563 m a.s.l., 24.iv.2017, adult on Borago officinalis (Boraginaceae) [det. M. Biondi, voucher db15] not needed Collection M. Biondi, University of L’Aquila (Italy) KX943357 requested
Longitarsus anchusae (Paykull) Boraginaceae OLI Italy, Abruzzo (AQ), Aprati, 42°32'10.9"N 13°27'14.9"E, 862 m a.s.l., 19.v.2017, adult on Anchusa italica (Boraginaceae) [det. M. Biondi, voucher db19] Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga National Park. Prot. n. 0007804/17 Collection M. Biondi, University of L’Aquila (Italy) KM448991 requested
Longitarsus atricillus (Linnaeus) Asteraceae, Ranunculaceae, Fabaceae, Scrophulariaceae POL GenBank KX943363 KP763161
Longitarsus ballotae (Marsham) Lamiaceae OLI GenBank KM446857 KC186008
Longitarsus bedelii Uhagon ? ? GenBank KP763150
Longitarsus brisouti Heikertinger Asteraceae OLI GenBank KM439696
Longitarsus brunneus (Duftschmid) Ranunculaceae MON GenBank KM452511
Longitarsus celticus Leonardi Lamiaceae OLI GenBank KU908777
Longitarsus cerinthes (Schrank) Boraginaceae OLI GenBank KX943478 KX943478
Longitarsus curtus (Allard) Boraginaceae OLI GenBank KX943501 KX943501
Longitarsus dorsalis (Fabricius) Asteraceae MON GenBank KX943359 KX943359
Longitarsus echii (Koch) Boraginaceae OLI GenBank KM439361
Longitarsus exsoletus (Linnaeus) Boraginaceae OLI GenBank KX943418 KX943418
Longitarsus fallax Weise Boraginaceae OLI Italy, Abruzzo (TE), Piancarani, 42°44'30.6"N 13°43'58.2"E, 191 m a.s.l., 24.iv.2017, adult on Borago officinalis (Boraginaceae) [det. M. Biondi, voucher db14] not needed Collection M. Biondi, University of L’Aquila (Italy) requested requested
Longitarsus foudrasi Weise Scrophulariaceae OLI Italy, Abruzzo (AQ), Casaline, 42°25'01.4"N 13°11'58.2"E, 1126 m a.s.l., 8.vii.2018, adult on Scrophularia sp. (Scrophulariaceae) [det. M. Biondi, voucher db43] not needed Collection M. Biondi, University of L’Aquila (Italy) requested requested
Longitarsus helvolus Kutschera Lamiaceae OLI GenBank KU916133
Longitarsus holsaticus (Linnaeus) Plantaginaceae OLI GenBank KJ965710
Longitarsus isoplexidis Wollaston Boraginaceae MON Portugal, Madeira Island, Encumeada, 32°44'24.2"N 17°02'55.0"W, 1316 m a.s.l., 1.iii.2017, adult on Echium candicans (Boraginaceae) [det. M. Biondi, voucher db7] not needed Collection M. Biondi, University of L’Aquila (Italy) requested requested
Longitarsus languidus Kutschera Asteraceae MON GenBank KU906343
Longitarsus lateripunctatus (Rosenhauer) Boraginaceae OLI Italy, Lazio (RM), Rome, 41°52'45.62"N 12°27'31.96"E, 50 m a.s.l., 7.v.2017, adult on Echium vulgare (Boraginaceae) [det. M. Biondi, voucher db16] not needed Collection M. Biondi, University of L’Aquila (Italy) requested requested
Longitarsus lewisii (Baly) Plantaginaceae OLI GenBank KJ964861
Longitarsus lindbergi Madar & Madar Asteraceae OLI Portugal, Madeira Island, Encumeada, 32°44'24.2"N 17°02'55.0"W, 1316 m a.s.l., 1.iii.2017, adult on Pericallis aurita (Asteraceae) [det. M. Biondi, voucher db23] not needed Collection M. Biondi, University of L’Aquila (Italy) requested requested
Longitarsus linnaei (Duftschmid) Boraginaceae OLI Italy, Abruzzo (AQ), Onna, 42°19'22"N 13°28'24"E; 650 m a.s.l., 14.iv.2017, adult on Symphytum tuberosum (Boraginaceae) [det. M. Biondi, voucher db12] not needed Collection M. Biondi, University of L’Aquila (Italy) requested requested
Longitarsus lycopi (Foudras) Lamiaceae OLI Italy, Abruzzo (TE), Prato Selva, 42°31'46.74"N 13°30'19.08"E, 1178 m a.s.l., 11.vii.2018, adult on Mentha sp. (Lamiaceae) [det. M. Biondi, voucher db50] Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga National Park. Prot. n. 0007403/18 Collection M. Biondi, University of L’Aquila (Italy) KX943332 requested
Longitarsus melanocephalus (De Geer) Plantaginaceae MON GenBank KX943469 KX943469
Longitarsus membranaceus (Foudras) Lamiaceae OLI GenBank KX943473 KX943473
Longitarsus minusculus (Foudras) Lamiaceae OLI GenBank KM442213 KP763142
Longitarsus nasturtii (Fabricius) Boraginaceae OLI Italy, Lazio (RM), Rome, 41°54'50.58"N 12°22'57.12"E, 65 m a.s.l., 14.v.2017 [det. M. Biondi, voucher db34] not needed Collection M. Biondi, University of L’Aquila (Italy) KM442304 requested
Longitarsus niger (Koch) Plantaginaceae OLI GenBank KX943504 KX943504
Longitarsus nigrocillus (Motschulsky) Convolvulaceae OLI GenBank KX943464 KX943464
Longitarsus nigrofasciatus (Goeze) Scrophulariaceae OLI GenBank KX943438 KX943438
Longitarsus obliteratus (Rosenhauer) Lamiaceae OLI Italy, Abruzzo (AQ), Roio Piano, 42°19'29.91"N 13°20'24.87"E, 1011 m a.s.l., 15.vii.2018, adult on Thymus sp. (Lamiaceae) [det. M. Biondi, voucher db57] not needed Collection M. Biondi, University of L’Aquila (Italy) KM447410 requested
Longitarsus ochroleucus (Marsham) Asteraceae OLI GenBank KM448633 KP763117
Longitarsus ordinatus (Foudras) Lamiaceae OLI GenBank KX943383 KP763143
Longitarsus pellucidus (Foudras) Convolvulaceae OLI GenBank KR480207
Longitarsus pinguis Weise Boraginaceae OLI Italy, Abruzzo (AQ), Campo Imperatore, 42°26'17.8"N 13°35'41.2"E, 1760 m a.s.l.,, adult on Cynoglossum magellense (Boraginaceae) [det. M. Biondi, voucher db21] Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga National Park. Prot. n. 0007804/17 Collection M. Biondi, University of L’Aquila (Italy) requested requested
Longitarsus plantagomarittimus Dollman Plantaginaceae MON GenBank EF421523
Longitarsus pratensis (Panzer) Plantaginaceae OLI GenBank KX943360 KX943360
Longitarsus pulmonariae Weise Boraginaceae OLI GenBank KU907407
Longitarsus quadriguttatus Pontoppidan Boraginaceae OLI GenBank KM446524
Longitarsus rectilineatus (Foudras) Lamiaceae OLI Italy, Lazio (RI), Val di Fua, 42°10'30"N 13°19'19"E; 1300–1500 m a.s.l.,13.ix.2017, adult on Daphne laureola (Thymelaeaceae; refuge plant) [det. M. Biondi, voucher db35] Sirente Velino Natural Park Prot. n. 1441 22/06/2017 Collection M. Biondi, University of L’Aquila (Italy) requested requested
Longitarsus reichei (Allard) Plantaginaceae OLI GenBank KU907319
Longitarsus rutilus (Illiger) Scrophulariaceae MON GenBank KX943491 KX943491
Longitarsus salviae Gruev Lamiaceae MON Italy, Abruzzo (AQ), Ortolano, 42°29'51.3"N 13°23'12.5"E, 1133 m a.s.l., 27.vii.2017, adult on Thymus sp. (Lamiaceae) [det. M. Biondi, voucher db31] Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga National Park. Prot. n. 0007804/17 Collection M. Biondi, University of L’Aquila (Italy) KU907298 requested
Longitarsus saulicus Gruev & Doeberl Boraginaceae OLI Israel, Har Bracha, Amasa Spring, 32°11'35.93"N 35°15'54.21"E, 864 m a.s.l., 27.iii.2017, adult on Anchusa sp. (Boraginaceae) [det. M. Biondi, voucher db11] not needed Collection M. Biondi, University of L’Aquila (Italy) requested requested
Longitarsus scutellaris (Mulsant & Rey) Plantaginaceae MON GenBank KR484199
Longitarsus springeri Leonardi Asteraceae MON Italy, Abruzzo (AQ), Campo Imperatore, 42°26'55"N 13°32'24"E, 2140 m a.s.l., 23.viii.2018, adult on Senecio rupestris (Asteraceae) [det. M. Biondi, voucher db24] Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga National Park. Prot. n. 0007403/18 Collection M. Biondi, University of L’Aquila (Italy) requested requested
Longitarsus succineus (Foudras) Asteraceae OLI Italy, Abruzzo (AQ), Valico delle Capannelle, 42°27'33.96"N 13°21'7.56"E, 1312 m a.s.l., 15.v.2017 [det. M. Biondi, voucher db53] Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga National Park. Prot. n. 0007804/17 Collection M. Biondi, University of L’Aquila (Italy) KJ962137 requested
Longitarsus suturellus (Duftschmid) Asteraceae OLI GenBank KU915636
Longitarsus tabidus (Fabricius) Scrophulariaceae OLI GenBank KX943424 KX943424
Longitarsus zangherii Warchalowski Asteraceae MON Italy, Abruzzo (TE), Prati di Tivo, 42°30'26.40"N 13°33'14.46"E, 1344 m a.s.l., 11.vii.2018, adult on Petasites sp. (Asteraceae) [det. M. Biondi, voucher db47] Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga National Park. Prot. n. 0007403/18 Collection M. Biondi, University of L’Aquila (Italy) requested requested

To assess the association between phylogeny and patterns of host use, we used information on host plants for each species of Longitarsus from field observations over many years, and from a critical analysis of information reported in the literature (Furth 1980, Doguet 1994, Biondi 1995a, b, 1996, Bienkovski 2004, Konstantinov 2005, Aslan and Gok 2006, Gruev and Tomov 2007). We ignored isolated observations or reports of one or a few individual herbivores seen only one time on a host, as well as cases of post-season host refugium (Furth 1980). According to Biondi (1996), species feeding on one or two phylogenetically very closely related plant genera were considered as monophagous (MON); species feeding on one or two phylogenetically very closely related plant families were considered as oligophagous (OLI); species feeding on more plant species not phylogenetically closely related were considered as polyphagous (POL).

Phylogenetic relationships among plant families were discussed according to The Angiosperm Phylogeny Group 2016 (hereafter The APG 2016). Molecular analyses included DNA sequences from the mitochondrial genes cytochrome oxidase subunit I (cox1) and 16S rDNA (16S). These sequences were obtained from 20 alcohol-preserved specimens, each representing a distinct species, and retrieved from GenBank for 32 species (see Table 1 for information on specimens). We selected these two genes because they are the most represented in GenBank for Longitarsus species and because their phylogenetic utility at the genus level have been demonstrated by Nie et al. (2018). Details on sample data, along with GenBank accession numbers are provided in Table 1.

Total genomic DNA was extracted from preserved specimens using either a standard high-salt protocol (Sambrook et al. 1989) or the DNeasy Blood & Tissue extraction kit (Qiagen, Hilden, Germany), following the manufacturer’s protocol. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification were performed using the universal primers LCO1490 and HC02198 (Folmer et al. 1994) and the primers specifically designed in this study for Longitarsus LonLCO-F (5’-CTC AGC CAT TTT ACC GAA TAA ATG-3’) and LonHCO-R (5’-GGA TTT GGI ATA ATT TCY CATA TTG-3’) targeting the barcoding fragment of the cox1 gene, and the primers 16sar-L (5-CGCCTGTTTATCAAAAACAT-3) and 16sbr-H (5’-CCG GTC TGA ACT CAG ATC AC-3’) slightly modified in Bologna et al. (2005) after Palumbi et al. (1991) targeting the fragment encompassing the domains IV and V of the16S rDNA. Amplification was carried out in a total volume of 25μl, with 3μl of PCR buffer, 2–2.5 μl of MgCl2 (50 mM), 0.5 μl of each primer (10mM), 0.5 μl of BSA, 1 U of BIOTAQ DNA polymerase (Bioline Ltd, London, UK) and 0.5–1 µL DNA template. PCR cycling conditions for cox1 followed Salvi et al. (2018), for 16S were 3 min at 94 °C, 35 cycles of 60 s at 94 °C, 90 s at 49.5 °C, 90 s at 72 °C, 10 min at 72 °C for final extension. Purification and sequencing of PCR products were carried out by an external service (Genewitz, UK).

Phylogenetic analyses

Multiple sequence alignment was performed with MAFFT v.7 (Katoh and Standley 2013) using the E-INS-i iterative refinement algorithm. Phylogenetic analyses were conducted using Maximum Likelihood (ML) and Bayesian Inference (BI) approaches on the concatenated alignment of cox1 and 16S sequences, using as outgroup Batophila aerata (Marsham, 1802). This outgroup belongs to Altica group, and has been demonstrated as a closely related lineage to Longitarsus group based on molecular evidence by Nie et al. (2018). Maximum Likelihood analyses were performed in raxmlGUI 1.5b2 (Silvestro and Michalak 2012), a graphical front‐end for RAxML 8.2.1 (Stamatakis 2014), with 10,000 rapid bootstrap replicates and 2000 independent ML searches (20% of the number of bootstrap replicates; command “-f a”; Stamatakis et al. 2008), applying the general time‐reversible model with a gamma model of rate heterogeneity (GTRGAMMA), with individual gene partitions.

Bayesian Inference analyses were performed in MrBayes 3.2.6 (Ronquist et al. 2012) using the best models of nucleotide substitution selected by JModelTest 2.1.1 (Darriba et al. 2012) under the corrected Bayesian Information Criterion (cox1: HKY+G; 16S: GTR+I+G). Two independent Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) analyses with 6 chains each were run in parallel for 50 million generations, sampling every 5000 generations. The first 25% were discarded as burn-in. MCMC chains convergence was verified by average standard deviation of split frequencies values below 0.0035 and confirmed in Tracer 1.7 (Rambaut et al. 2018). A majority rule consensus tree with posterior probability of each node was calculated with the sumt command in MrBayes.

Phylogenetic results were summarised using the ML tree and reporting for each node both BS and BPP from the Bayesian analysis. Nodes with bootstrap values (BS) between 70 and 90% and Bayesian posterior probability (BPP) between 0.95 and 0.98 were considered as supported, and those with BS greater than 90% and BPP greater than 0.98 as highly supported.

Results and discussion

Host plants information is available for 165 out of 197 Longitarsus species known for the Western Palaearctic region. More than 96% of the species for which hosts are known, are specialized, either oligophagous or monophagous. The remaining species are generally considered as polyphagous (Fig. 1). Specialized feeders are distributed on plant families as follows (Fig. 1): Boraginaceae (51 species, 32.1%), Lamiaceae (39, 24.5%), Asteraceae (23, 14.5%), Plantaginaceae (18, 11.3%), Scrophulariaceae (12, 7.5%), Convolvulaceae (6, 3.8%), Thymeleaceae (4, 32.5%), Ranunculaceae (3, 1.9%), Caprifoliaceae (2, 1.3%), Lentibulariaceae (1, 0.6%).

Figure 1. 

Percent distribution of oligophagous and monophagous Western Palaearctic species of Longitarsus on host plant families.

Among the 52 Longitarsus species used in our molecular phylogenetic analyses (Table 1), 49 are monophagous or oligophagous; L. atricillus and L. aeneicollis are polyphagous, while no information is available about host plants of L. bedelii. Such a high number of specialized species allows a straightforward assessment of phylogenetic conservatism in host plant use, given a phylogenetic tree of the Longitarsus species and the relationships among host plant families.

Phylogenetic analyses based on ML and BI methods gave consistent results and identified the same supported clades (Fig. 2). Most of these clades have been previously recognized as distinct species-groups based on morphology (external morphology, aedeagus and/or spermatheca): (1) clade H includes species of the tabidus group sensu Leonardi (1972); (2) species of the pratensis group sensu Leonardi and Doguet (1990) are clustered in the clade B2; (3) L. pulmonariae, L. exsoletus, and L. cerinthes (clade O) were already known to be closely related (Leonardi 1972); (4) L. anchusae and L. saulicus (within clade D) belong to the anchusae group sensu Biondi (1995a).

Figure 2. 

Maximum Likelihood phylogenetic tree of 52 species of Longitarsus based on concatenated cox1 and 16S DNA sequences. Circles in correspondence of nodes represent bootstrap support (BS, upper half) and posterior probability (BPP, bottom half) from Bayesian analysis: black for BS > 90 and BPP > 0.98; grey for BS of 70–90% and BPP of 0.95–0.98; white for BS of 50–70% only for nodes supported by Bayesian analysis. Abbreviations: POL = polyphagous; ? = host plants unknown.

In agreement with the host phylogenetic conservatism hypothesis, we recovered a strict association between most of the recovered Longitarsus clades and specific plant families, except for species associated with Boraginaceae (Fig. 2). Longitarsus species associated with Plantaginaceae form two closely related and supported clades (clades B1 and B2) and those associated with Scrophulariaceae form a distinct, well supported clade (clade H). Species associated with Lamiaceae are included in four clades (C, E, F, G) within a major lineage of Western Palaearctic Longitarsus (clade A). Relationships between clades within this lineage are poorly resolved; additional molecular data will be required to clarify relationships within clade A and to assess whether clades associated with Lamiaceae are truly polyphyletic or instead if increased phylogenetic resolution will allow recovering them as a monophyletic assemblage. All nine species associated with Asteraceae are grouped in the clade I; this clade also includes L. brunneus feeding on Ranunculaceae, and might represent an instance of host-shift towards an unrelated plant family (The APG 2016).

The two species associated with Convolvulaceae, L. nigrocillus, and L. pellucidus, cluster together with high support in clade N. The polyphagous species, L. atricillus and L. aeneicollis, plus L. bedelii, for which no host plants are known, form the highly supported clade M. On the other hand, clades grouping species associated with Boraginaceae are distant in the phylogenetic tree: clade D with six species and the isolated branch of L. curtus are included in clade A, whereas clade O with four species occupies a basal position of the phylogenetic tree together with other four species with poorly resolved phylogenetic position (L. fallax, L. quadriguttatus, L. lateripunctatus, L. linnaei).

Overall the phylogenetic tree of Western Palaearctic Longitarsus shows a decrease of statistical support from the tips to the root, with highly supported terminal clades and weakly supported basal relationships (Fig. 2). Therefore, the inference of phylogenetic conservatism in host-plant association is only robust at the lower hierarchical level. While the strong association between closely related Longitarsus species to the same plant family is clear, it is difficult to identify an association between closely related Longitarsus clades and closely related plant families. Most of the clades of Longitarsus (clades B-H) belonging to the same main lineage (clade A) are associated with plant families (Plantaginaceae, Scrophulariaceae, and Lamiaceae) that belong to the same order Lamiales (The APG 2016).

Ideally, for a conclusive assessment of phylogenetic conservatisms in host-plant association between closely related Longitarsus clades and closely related plant families we would require well-resolved phylogenies for both insects and plants at all taxonomic levels. While limited uncertainty exists for interrelationships between plant families (e.g., over the exact placement of Boraginaceae family (The APG 2016)), our molecular phylogenetic analysis only provides a first appraisal of relationships between Western Palaearctic Longitarsus. To assess whether the pattern of basal polytomy we observed (Fig. 2) is a solid polytomy or is due to a lack of data (see Mendes et al. 2016) further studies based on increased taxon and marker sampling are required. Improving field research is also crucial because the ecology and feeding biology of several species are still unknown. True host affiliation can be difficult to detect, due to the different interaction that phytophagous insects can have with plant species (Furth 1980, Schoonhoven et al. 2005), even though the use of molecular techniques, such as DNA barcoding of gut contents, can help to detect real trophic interactions (Jurado-Rivera et al. 2009).


In this study, we provided first evidence that host-use patterns are phylogenetically constrained in Western Palaearctic Longitarsus. Despite the limited set of species analysed, we found a clear association between closely related Longitarsus species and specific plant families (Plantaginaceae, Asteraceae, Scrophulariaceae, and Convolvulaceae). However, relationships between clades of species were poorly resolved thus preventing the assessment of whether all Longitarsus clades associated with a specific plant family, or to related plant families, represent a single lineage. Such a relationship is unlikely for those Longitarsus species feeding on Boraginaceae which were resolved in unrelated clades. A better understanding of the phylogenetic relationships between Longitarsus species associated with Boraginaceae is of great interest also from a biogeographical point of view. In fact, two groups of species feeding on Boraginaceae and sharing a number of striking morphological features show a disjunct Mediterranean-South African distribution (Biondi 1995a, Biondi and D’Alessandro 2008, 2017). Molecular studies with additional markers are in progress on an extended set of species to further our understanding of hostplant relationships in Longitarsus.


We are grateful to Caroline S. Chaboo, Anthony Deczynski, and Chris Reid for their suggestions, that have improved the early version of the manuscript. We thank Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga National Park and Sirente Velino Natural Park that allowed the collection of specimens used in this work. DS is supported by the program ‘Rita Levi Montalcini’ (MIUR, Ministero dell’Istruzione, dell’Università e della Ricerca) for the recruitment of young researchers at the University of L’Aquila.


  • Balagawi S, Drew RAI, Clarke AR (2013) Simultaneous tests of the preference-performance and phylogenetic conservatism hypotheses: is either theory useful? Arthropod-Plant Interactions 7: 299–313.
  • Becerra JX, Vernable DL (1999) Macroevolution of insect–plant associations: The relevance of host biogeography to host affiliation. PNAS 96(22): 12626–12631.
  • Bieńkowski AO (2004) Leaf-beetles (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) of the eastern Europe. New key to subfamilies, genera, and species. Mikron-print, Moscow, 278 pp.
  • Biondi M (1995a) The Longitarsus anchusae complex in Near East and description of a new species (Coleoptera, Alticinae). Nouvelle Revue d’Entomologie (n.s. ) 12: 259–271.
  • Biondi M (1995b) Gli Alticini delle Isole Canarie (Coleoptera, Chrysomelidae). Fragmenta Entomologica 26 (supplemento): 1–133.
  • Biondi M (1996) Proposal for an ecological and zoogeographical categorization of the Mediterranean species of the flea beetle genus Longitarsus Berthold. In: Jolivet PHA, Cox ML (Eds) Chrysomelidae biology 3 General Studies. SPV Academic Publishing bv, Amsterdam, 13–35.
  • Biondi M, D’Alessandro P (2008) Taxonomical revision of the Longitarsus capensis species-group: An example of Mediterranean-southern African disjunct distributions (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae). European Journal of Entomology 105: 719–736.
  • Biondi M, D’Alessandro P (2010) Genus-group names of Afrotropical flea beetles (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae: Alticinae): Annotated catalogue and biogeographical notes. European Journal of Entomology 107: 401–424.
  • Biondi M, D’Alessandro P (2012) Afrotropical flea beetle genera: A key to their identification, updated catalogue and biogeographical analysis (Coleoptera, Chrysomelidae, Galerucinae, Alticini). Zookeys 253: 1–158.
  • Biondi M, D’Alessandro P (2017) Longitarsus doeberli, a wingless new species from Socotra Island (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae). Acta Entomologica Musei Nationalis Pragae 57: 165–172.
  • Bologna MA, D’Inzillo B, Cervelli M, Oliverio M, Mariottini P (2005) Molecular phylogenetics of the Mylabrini blister beetles (Coleoptera, Meloidae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 37: 306–311.
  • Charlery de la Masselière M, Facon B, Hafsi A, Duyck P-F (2017) Diet breadth modulates preference–performance relationships in a phytophagous insect community. Scientific Reports 7: 16934.
  • Clark SM, LeDoux DG, Seeno TN, Riley EG, Gilbert AJ, Sullivan JM (2004) Host plants of leaf beetle species occurring in the United States and Canada (Coleoptera: Orsodacnidae, Megalopodidae, Chrysomelidae exclusive of Bruchinae). Coleopterist Society, Special Publication 2: 1–476.[0243:HPOLBS]2.0.CO;2
  • Darriba D, Taboada GL, Doallo R, Posada D (2012) jModelTest 2: more models, new heuristics and parallel computing. Nature Methods 9: 772.
  • Döberl M (2010) Alticinae. In: Löbl I, Smetana A (Eds) Catalogue of Palaearctic Coleoptera. Volume 6. Chrysomeloidea. Apollo Books, Stenstrup, 491–563.
  • Dobler S, Haberer W, Witte L, Hartmann T (2000) Selective sequestration of pyrrolizidine alkaloids from diverse host plants by Longitarsus flea beetles. Journal of Chemical Ecology 26(5): 1281–1298.
  • Doguet S (1994) Coléoptères Chrysomelidae. Vol. 2 Alticinae. Faune de France 80, 687 pp.
  • Folmer O, Black M, Hoeh W, Lutz R, Vrijenhoek R (1994) DNA primers for amplification of mitochondrial cytochrome C oxidase subunit I from diverse metazoan invertebrates. Molecular Marine Biology and Biotechnology 3: 294–299.
  • Furth DG (1980) Wing polymorphism, host plant ecology, and biogeography of Longitarsus in Israel (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae). Israel Journal of Entomology 13: 125–148.
  • Furth DG (2007) Longitarsus warchalowskianus, a new species from Chihuahua, Mexico (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae: Alticinae). Genus 18(4): 623–630.
  • Gómez-Rodríguez C, Crampton-Platt A, Timmermans MJTN, Baselga A, Vogler AP (2015) Validating the power of mitochondrial metagenomics for community ecology and phylogenetics of complex assemblages. Methods in Ecology and Evolution 6: 883–894.
  • Gruev B, Döberl M (1997) General distribution of the flea-beetles in the Palaearctic Subregion (Coleoptera, Chrysomelidae: Alticinae). Scopolia 37: 1–496.
  • Gruev B, Döberl M (2005) General distribution of the flea-beetles in the Palaearctic Subregion (Coleoptera, Chrysomelidae: Alticinae). Supplement. Pensoft Publishers, Sofia-Moscow, 6–239.
  • Gruev B, Tomov V (2007) Distributional Atlas and Catalogue of the Leaf Beetles of Bulgaria (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae). Zoocartographia Balcanica 3. Pensoft, Sofia-Moscow, 350 pp.
  • Gripenberg S, Mayhew PJ, Parnell M, Roslin T (2010) A meta-analysis of preference–performance relationships in phytophagous insects. Ecology Letters 13: 383–393.
  • Jolivet P, Hawkeswood T (1995) Host-plants of Chrysomelidae of the world. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, 281 pp.
  • Jurado-Rivera JA, Vogler AP, Reid CAM, Petitpierre E, Gómez-Zurita J (2009) DNA barcoding insect-host plant associations. Proceeding of the Royal Society B 276: 639–648.
  • Katoh K, Standley DM (2013) MAFFT multiple sequence alignment software version 7: improvements in performance and usability. Molecular biology and evolution 30: 772–780.
  • Kergoat GJ, Silvain J-F, Delobel A, Tuda M, Klaus-Werner A (2007) Defining the limits of taxonomic conservatism in host–plant use for phytophagous insects: Molecular systematics and evolution of host–plant associations in the seed-beetle genus Bruchus Linnaeus (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae: Bruchinae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 43: 251–269.
  • Kergoat GJ, Meseguer AS, Jousselin E (2017) Evolution of Plant–Insect Interactions: Insights from Macroevolutionary Approaches in Plants and Herbivorous Insects. Advances in Botanical Research 81: 25–53.
  • Konstantinov AS (2005) New species of Middle Asian Longitarsus Latreille with discussion of their subgeneric placement (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae). Zootaxa 1056: 19–42.
  • Latreille PA (1829) Suite e fin des insectes. In: Cuvier G (Ed.) Le règne animal distribué d’après son organisation, pour servir de base à l’histoire naturelle des animaux et d’introduction à l’anatomie comparée. Nouvelle édition, revue et augmentée. Tome V. Paris, Déterville, 556 pp.
  • Leonardi C (1972) La spermateca nella sistematica del genere Longitarsus (Coleoptera Chrysomelidae). Atti della Società italiana di Scienze naturali e del Museo civico di Storia naturale di Milano 113(1): 5–27.
  • Leonardi C, Doguet S (1990) Studio critico sui Longitarsus del gruppo pratensis (Panzer) (Coleoptera Chrysomelidae). Atti della Società italiana di Scienze naturali e del Museo civico di Storia naturale di Milano 131(2): 13–74.
  • Lima Bergamini L, Lewinsohn TM, Jorge LR, Almeida-Neto M (2017) Manifold influences of phylogenetic structure on a plant-herbivore network. Oikos 126: 703–712.
  • Marsham T (1802) Entomologia Britannica, sistens insecta britanniae indigena, secundum methodum linnaeanam disposita. Tomus I. Coleoptera. Wilks & Taylor, Londini, 547 pp.
  • Mendes J, Harris DJ, Carranza S, Salvi D (2016) Evaluating the phylogenetic signal limit from mitogenomes, slow evolving nuclear genes, and the concatenation approach. New insights into the Lacertini radiation using fast evolving nuclear genes and species trees. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 100: 254–267.
  • Nie R-E, Breeschoten T, Timmermans MJTN, Nadein K, Xue H-J, Bai M, Huang Y, Yang X-K, Vogler AP (2018) The phylogeny of Galerucinae (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) and the performance of mitochondrial genomes in phylogenetic inference compared to nuclear rRNA genes. Cladistics 34: 113–130.
  • Palumbi SR, Martin A, Romano S, McMillan WO, Stice L, Grabowski G (1991) The Simple Fool’s Guide to PCR. University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, 45 pp.
  • Prathapan KD, Viraktamath CA (2011) A new species of Longitarsus Latreille, 1829 (Coleoptera, Chrysomelidae, Galerucinae) pupating inside stem aerenchyma of the hydrophyte host from the Oriental Region. ZooKeys 87: 1–10.
  • Rambaut A, Drummond AJ, Xie D, Baele G, Suchard MA (2018) Posterior summarisation in Bayesian phylogenetics using Tracer 1.7. Systematic Biology 67(5): 901–904.
  • Reid CAM (2017) Australopapuan leaf beetle diversity: the contributions of hosts plants and geography. Austral Entomology 56: 123–137.
  • Ronquist F, Teslenko M, Van der Mark P, Ayres DL, Darling A, Höhna S, Huelsenbeck JP (2012) MrBayes 3.2: Efficient Bayesian Phylogenetic Inference and Model Choice Across a Large Model Space. Systematic Biology 61(3): 539–542.
  • Salvi D, Maura M, Pan Z, Bologna MA (2018) Phylogenetic systematics of Mylabris blister beetles (Coleoptera, Meloidae): a molecular assessment using species trees and total evidence. Cladistics, in press.
  • Sambrook J, Fritsch EF, Maniatis T (1989) Molecular Cloning: A Laboratory Manual. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, Cold Spring Harbor.
  • Schoohoven LM, van Loon JJA, Dicke M (2005) Insect-Plant Biology (2nd edn). Oxford University Press, New York, 421 pp.
  • The Angiosperm Phylogeny Group (2016) An update of the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group classification for the orders and families of flowering plants: APG IV. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 181: 1–20.