Comparative analysis of gall morphology in Australian gall thrips: The evolution of extended phenotypes

Bernard Crespi, Michael Worobey

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73 Scopus citations


We used a combination of morphometric, phylogenetic, and life-history information to analyze the evolution and possible adaptive significance of gall morphology in a clade of 24 species of gall-inducing thrips (Insecta: Thysanoptera) on Australian Acacia trees. Principal components analysis revealed that galls varied in morphology along two main axes, spherical versus elongate (PC1) and general size (PC2). A high degree of conservation of gall shape on an independently derived phylogeny of the insects and the presence of nine species of Acacia each bearing two or three morphologically disparate gall forms induced by different thrips species indicate that interspecific variation in gall form is determined predominantly by the insects. Character optimization of PC1 on the phylogeny of gall thrips suggested that the ancestral gall form was a simple roll or curl. The diversification of gall form involved four main processes: (1) the convergent evolution of relatively spherical galls in two clades; (2) the evolution of small elongate and hemispherical galls in one clade; (3) the evolution of a lobed interior in a species with a spherical gall and multiple within-gall generations; and (4) the evolution of intraspecific gall polymorphism in a clade of apparent sibling species. Comparative analyses indicated that gall sphericity was associated with the presence of physogastry (foundress hyperfecundity) and that small elongate and hemispherical forms may be associated with the presence of multiple generations in a gall and, perhaps, with the presence of soldier castes. The evolution of a lobed interior in one species, which greatly increases inner surface area, coincided with the evolution of multiple generations. In the clade with intraspecific gall polymorphism in some species, patterns of intraspecific variation mirror patterns of interspecific variation within the clade as a whole. This is the first study to analyze the evolution of gall size and shape in a phylogenetic context and to investigate the life-history correlates of evolutionary changes in gall form. Taken together, our findings indicate that the main selective pressures driving the evolution of gall form in Australian gall thrips on Acacia involve inner surface area to volume relationships, which change in concert with foundress fecundity and the number of within-gall generations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1686-1696
Number of pages11
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1998


  • Adaptation
  • Extended phenotypes
  • Gall morphology
  • Gall thrips
  • Phylogeny

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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