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Limiting cheaters in mutualism: evidence from hybridization between mutualist and cheater

Summary: Limiting cheaters in mutualism: evidence from
hybridization between mutualist and cheater
yucca moths
Kari A. Segraves*,
, David M. Althoff
and Olle Pellmyr
Department of Biological Sciences, University of Idaho, Moscow, ID 83844-3051, USA
Mutualisms are balanced antagonistic interactions where both species gain a net benefit. Because
mutualisms generate resources, they can be exploited by individuals that reap the benefits of the interaction
without paying any cost. The presence of such `cheaters' may have important consequences, yet we are
only beginning to understand how cheaters evolve from mutualists and how their evolution may be
curtailed within mutualistic lineages. The yucca­yucca moth pollination mutualism is an excellent model
in this context as there have been two origins of cheating from within the yucca moth lineage. We used
nuclear and mitochondrial DNA markers to examine genetic structure in a moth population where a
cheater species is parapatric with a resident pollinator. The results revealed extensive hybridization
between pollinators and cheaters. Hybrids were genetically intermediate to parental populations, even
though all individuals in this population had a pollinator phenotype. The results suggest that mutualisms
can be stable in the face of introgression of cheater genes and that the ability of cheaters to invade a given
mutualism may be more limited than previously appreciated.
Keywords: obligate pollination mutualism; hybridization; cheater; exploitation


Source: Althoff, David M. - Department of Biology, Syracuse University
Segraves, Kari A. - Department of Biology, Syracuse University


Collections: Biology and Medicine; Environmental Sciences and Ecology