Parasitology, Harold W. Manter Laboratory of


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Published in the Journal of Parasitology (October 2002) 88(5): 874-879. Copyright 2002, the American Society of Parasitologists. Used by permission.


We examine the evolution of host specificity for species of Telorchis, using the methods developed by researchers studying phytophagous insect-plant systems. Optimization of "generalist" compared with "specialist" onto the phylogeny for Telorchis revealed ambiguous patterns, depending on how the two terms were defined. Regardless of that definition, most of the evolutionary diversification of this group has been carried out within eucryptodiran turtles, the ancestral host group. From that plesiomorphic background, there appears to have been two episodes of specialization by way of a host switch into caudates (ancestor of T. stunkardi + T. sirenis) and snakes (T. auridistomi), and one episode of exuberant expansion producing a true generalist (T. corti). These results, which indicate that most species of Telorchis are tracking widespread plesiomorphic resources, mirror those reported for phytophagous insects and their plants. We believe that establishing a dialogue between the two research groups will be mutually beneficial to both and will strengthen our understanding of the complex factors underlying the evolution of coevolutionary associations.

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