Ecological costs of plant resistance to herbivores in the currency of pollination

Journal Article

In this paper, we examine how ecological costs of resistance might be manifested through plant relationships with pollinators. If defensive compounds are incorporated into floral structures or if they are sufficiently costly that fewer rewards are offered to pollinators, pollinators may discriminate against more defended plants. Here we consider whether directional selection for increased resistance to herbivores could be constrained by opposing selection through pollinator discrimination against more defended plants. We used artificial selection to create two populations of Brassica rapa plants that had high and low myrosinase concentrations and, consequently, high and low resistance to flea beetle herbivores. We measured changes in floral characters of plants in both damaged and undamaged states from these populations with different resistances to flea beetle attack. We also measured pollinator visitation to plants, including numbers of pollinators and measures of visit quality (numbers of flowers visited and time spent per flower). Damage from herbivores resulted in reduced petal size, as did selection for high resistance to herbivores later in the plant lifetime. In addition, floral display (number of open flowers) was also altered by an interaction between these two effects. Changes in floral traits translated into overall greater use of low-resistance, undamaged plants based on total amount of time pollinators spent foraging on plants. Total numbers of pollinators attracted to plants did not differ among treatments; however, pollinators spent significantly more time per flower on plants from the low-resistance population and tended to visit more flowers on these plants as well. Previous work by other investigators on the same pollinator taxa has shown that longer visit times are associated with greater male and female plant fitness. Because initial numbers of pollinators did not differ between selection regimes, palatability and/or amount of rewards offered by high- and low-resistance populations are likely to be responsible for these patterns. During periods of pollinator limitation, less defended plants may have a selective advantage and pollinator preferences may mediate directional selection imposed by herbivores. In addition, if pollinator preferences limit seed set in highly defended plants, then lower seed set previously attributed to allocation costs of defense may also reflect greater pollinator limitation in these plants relative to less defended plants.

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Strauss, SY; Siemens, DH; Decher, MB; Mitchell-Olds, T

Published Date

  • 1999

Published In

  • Evolution

Volume / Issue

  • 53 / 4

Start / End Page

  • 1105 - 1113

PubMed ID

  • 28565516