Direct and correlated responses to selection on iridoid glycosides in Plantago lanceolata L.


ArjenBiere Department of Plant Population Biology, Netherlands Institute of Ecology, NIOO-CTO, PO Box 40, 6666 ZG Heteren, The Netherlands. Tel.: +31-264791212 (or 91111); fax: +31-264723227; e-mail:


Plantago lanceolata L. (ribwort plantain) produces two costly terpenoid secondary plant compounds, the iridoid glycosides aucubin and catalpol. We performed an artificial selection experiment to investigate direct and correlated responses to selection on the constitutive level of iridoid glycosides in the leaves for four generations. Estimated realized heritabilities (±SE) were 0.23 ± 0.07 and 0.23 ± 0.04 for upward and downward selection, respectively. The response to upward selection was caused by selection for a developmental pattern characterized by the production of fewer leaves that on average contain more iridoids, and by selection for a development-independent increase in the level of these compounds. Significant correlated responses were observed for plant growth form. Upward selection resulted in plants with larger sized, but fewer leaves, fewer side rosettes, and fewer spikes, corresponding to a previously distinguished ‘hayfield’ ecotype, whereas downward selection produced the opposite pattern, corresponding to a ‘pasture’ ecotype. This indicates that the level of iridoid glycosides is genetically correlated with morphological traits in P. lanceolata, and is part of the complex of genetically correlated traits underlying the two ecotypes. The genetic association between iridoid level and growth forms suggests that there may be constraints to the simultaneous evolution of resistance to generalist insects (by iridoid glycosides) and to larger grazers (by a high production rate of prostrate leaves and inflorescences) in open grazed habitats where the ‘pasture’ ecotype is found.