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Due to anthropogenic climate change, species are expanding their historical natural ranges. However, interacting species will not shift synchronously and range-expanding species are likely to lose interactions and pick up novel ones in their expanded range. If antagonistic interactions, such as with competitors or enemies are lost, range-expanding species may experience “ecological release” and have impacts in their expanded range. Of the parasitoid wasps that attack phytophagous insects, some are specialists and some are generalists attacking alternative hosts (competitors). Range-expanding species may lose enemies if their specialists fail to follow from their native range and if generalist enemies fail to switch from competitors in the expanded range (“release from apparent competition”). We study a poleward range-expansion of a phytophagous gall-forming insect Neuroterus saltatorius that expanded its range from mainland western North America to Vancouver Island, BC, where it is outbreaking on its plant Querucs garryana. N. saltatorius co-occurs with several other gall-formers on its host, including Andricus opertus, throughout its native and expanded range. Here, we ask if A. opertus acts as an apparent competitor (shares enemies) with N. saltatorius, and if apparent competition is weaker in the expanded range. These two host species were collected from 18 sites that span the range of Q. garryana. We reared parasitoid wasps from them and identified parasitoids to morphospecies using taxonomic keys. We identified 16 parasitoids from N. saltatorius and 39 from A. opertus. Of these, 13 species of parasitoids are shared between the two host species in all regions, and we will calculate the rate of shared overlap to see if there are fewer shared species in the expanded range. This result would suggest that release from apparent competition contributes to ecological release. Understanding how biotic interactions change under range expansions is important to predict species responses to climate change.



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The Role of Apparent Competition in Facilitating Ecological Release of a Range-expanding Insect