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Intraspecific competition facilitates the evolution of tolerance to insect damage in the perennial plant Solanum carolinense


, : Intraspecific competition facilitates the evolution of tolerance to insect damage in the perennial plant Solanum carolinense. Oecologia 170(4): 1033-1044

Tolerance to herbivory (the degree to which plants maintain fitness after damage) is a key component of plant defense, so understanding how natural selection and evolutionary constraints act on tolerance traits is important to general theories of plant herbivore interactions. These factors may be affected by plant competition, which often interacts with damage to influence trait expression and fitness. However, few studies have manipulated competitor density to examine the evolutionary effects of competition on tolerance. In this study, we tested whether intraspecific competition affects four aspects of the evolution of tolerance to herbivory in the perennial plant Solanum carolinense: phenotypic expression, expression of genetic variation, the adaptive value of tolerance, and costs of tolerance. We manipulated insect damage and intraspecific competition for clonal lines of S. carolinense in a greenhouse experiment, and measured tolerance in terms of sexual and asexual fitness components. Compared to plants growing at low density, plants growing at high density had greater expression of and genetic variation in tolerance, and experienced greater fitness benefits from tolerance when damaged. Tolerance was not costly for plants growing at either density, and only plants growing at low density benefited from tolerance when undamaged, perhaps due to greater intrinsic growth rates of more tolerant genotypes. These results suggest that competition is likely to facilitate the evolution of tolerance in S. carolinense, and perhaps in other plants that regularly experience competition, while spatio-temporal variation in density may maintain genetic variation in tolerance.

US$19.90

PMID: 22684886

DOI: 10.1007/s00442-012-2377-x


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