Crops producing toxins derived from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) are widely planted to manage insect pests including western corn rootworm, Diabrotica virgifera virgifera LeConte (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae), which is a significant pest of maize in the United States and Europe. However, the widespread use of Bt maize places intense selection pressure on pest populations to evolve resistance, and field-evolved resistance to Bt maize by western corn rootworm has been documented in the United States. In conjunction with non-Bt refuges, fitness costs of Bt resistance can delay resistance evolution. Fitness costs arise in the absence of Bt toxin when individuals with resistance alleles have lower fitness than Bt-susceptible genotypes. We quantified the level of resistance and fitness costs of resistance for a strain of western corn rootworm with laboratory-selected resistance to transgenic maize (Zea mays L.) producing Bt toxin Cry3Bb1. Survival to adulthood on Cry3Bb1 maize was more than twofold higher for resistant insects vs. susceptible insects, which is similar to the magnitude of resistance first observed in the field. Fitness costs were measured in two experiments; the first used maize hybrids and the second used inbred lines. The experiment with maize hybrids compared resistant and susceptible strains while the experiment with maize inbreds compared resistant, susceptible and heterozygous genotypes. The only non-recessive fitness cost detected (i.e. cost affecting heterozygotes) was for adult size. Recessive fitness costs (i.e. costs affecting the resistant strain) were observed for developmental rate, female survival and egg viability. However, when reared on non-Bt maize, the resistant strain also displayed higher fecundity, higher survival for males and greater adult longevity compared to the susceptible strain. These results suggest that resistance to Bt maize by western corn rootworm may not impose substantial fitness costs, and consequently, may evolve quickly and persist once present.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/richard_hellmich/152/