Studies of patterns of molecular variation in natural populations can provide important insights into a number of evolutionary problems. Among these, the question of whether geographic factors are more important than ecological factors in promoting population differentiation and ultimately speciation has been an important and contentious area in evolutionary biology. Systems involving herbivorous insects have played a leading role in this discussion. This study examined the distribution of molecular variation in a highly specialized gall-forming insect, grape phylloxera (Daktulosphaira vitifoliae Fitch), that is found on both sympatric and allopatric host-plant species of the genus Vitis. In addition, the relationship of insects in the introduced range in the United States to ancestral populations in the native range was examined. Evidence for differentiation along host-plant lines from both nuclear (RAPD) and mitochondrial (COI) DNA was confounded with the effect of geography. Differentiation was found where hosts were allopatric or parapatric, but no evidence was found for such differentiation on two hosts, V. vulpina and V. aestivalis, that are broadly sympatric. The question of population differentiation onto these sympatric hosts can be considered to be resolved—it has not occurred in spite of a long history of association. Evidence was equivocal, but suggestive of a period of divergence in allopatry prior to reestablishment of contact, for insects associated with another host plant species, V. cinerea, found in both sympatric and parapatric populations. A low level of diversity and placement of samples collected from the grape species V. riparia at the tip of a phylogenetic tree supports the hypothesis that this host has been recently colonized from populations from the Mississippi Valley. A polyphyletic origin for biotype B grape phylloxera was supported: Although most samples collected from vineyards in the introduced range in California had similar haplotypes, they were closely related to natives on V. vulpina from the Atlantic Coast–Piedmont region. All samples collected from vineyards in Oregon and Washington were closely related to natives on V. riparia in the northern United States.
Corresponding Editor: C. Boggs