Anthropogenic introduction of a plant species may cause novel encounters between the plant and local herbivores, and initiate evolutionary changes in host plant usage by herbivores. Until recently the endemic aquatic plant Hygrophila pogonocalyx was endangered and had a restricted distribution in Taiwan. Massive restoration efforts since 1997 have led to an expansion of the plant's distribution and a novel encounter between it and an Asian butterfly, the chocolate pansy, Junonia iphita (Nymphalidae). This butterfly appears to have colonized H. pogonocalyx, switching from its original host, Strobilanthes penstemonoides var. formosana. In the present study, we aimed to investigate whether the utilization of H. pogonocalyx as a host plant has initiated a differentiation between butterflies using the novel and the original hosts. To this purpose we collected butterflies from patches of the two host plants which grow sympatrically. We tested oviposition preference for the two hosts and larval performance on them. Female adults exhibited distinct oviposition preference toward the host plant their mothers preferred. Offspring showed greater survivorship and pupal weight when fed on the host plant their mothers preferred. Male adults displayed territorial behaviors on the host plant that their mothers had preferred. Finally, the survival rate of offspring produced from cross-mating between individuals with different host plant preference was lower than that of non-hybrids. Taken together, we suggest that genetic differentiation has occurred between individuals preferring H. pogonocalyx versus S. penstemonoides as host plants via host shifting. This process was likely induced by the mass restoration of the formerly rare and endangered plant species.
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