Behavioural specialization among populations of the acoustically orienting parasitoid fly Ormia ochracea utilizing different cricket species as hosts

Tightly coupled evolutionary associations between parasites and their hosts are well known. What is less well characterized is the behavioural specialization of parasites that exploit different hosts in different parts of the parasite's geographical range. Here we examine behavioural specialization among populations of a parasitoid fly, Ormia ochracea, that exploit different host species of crickets in different parts of the fly's range. We conducted a field experiment to compare phonotactic attraction of flies from Florida, Texas, California and Hawaii (U.S.A.) to the songs of their local host species of cricket versus their attraction to the songs of species of crickets utilized as hosts elsewhere within the flies' range. We found strong behavioural specialization of fly populations, with preferential phonotaxis towards the song of the local host species of cricket. These results suggest strong behavioural specialization of flies, but that specialization does not constrain or preclude the rapid adoption of novel hosts