Cylas formicarius F. and Euscepes batatae Waterhouse are the most damaging sweet potato insect pests globally. Both weevils are thought to have invaded the Pacific alongside the movement of sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas (L.) Lam. Convolvulaceae), with C. formicarius having originated in India and E. batatae in Central or South America. Here we compare the genetic relationships between populations of the pests, primarily in the Asia-Pacific, to understand better their contemporary population structure and their historical movement relative to that of sweet potato. Cylas formicarius has divergent mitochondrial lineages that indicate a more complex biogeographic and invasive history than is presently assumed for this insect, suggesting it was widespread across the Asia-Pacific before the arrival of sweet potato. Cylas formicarius must have originally fed on Ipomoea species other than I. batatas but the identity of these species is presently unknown. Cylas formicarius was formerly designated as three species or subspecies and the genetic data presented here suggests that these designations should be reinvestigated. Euscepes batatae has very low genetic diversity which is consistent with its historical association with sweet potato and a recent introduction to the Asia-Pacific from the Americas. The distribution of E. batatae may be narrower than that of C. formicarius in the Asia-Pacific because it has relied relatively more on human-assisted movement. Consequently, E. batatae may become more widespread in the future. Investigating the invasion history of both species will help to understand the probability and nature of future invasions.
sweet potato weevil
West Indian sweet potato weevil