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EVOLUTION OF RESISTANCE TO A MULTIPLE-HERBIVORE COMMUNITY: GENETIC CORRELATIONS, DIFFUSE COEVOLUTION, AND CONSTRAINTS ON THE PLANT'S RESPONSE TO SELECTION

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Abstract

Although plants are generally attacked by a community of several species of herbivores, relatively little is known about the strength of natural selection for resistance in multiple-herbivore communities—particularly how the strength of selection differs among herbivores that feed on different plant organs or how strongly genetic correlations in resistance affect the evolutionary responses of the plant. Here, we report on a field study measuring natural selection for resistance in a diverse community of herbivores of Solanum carolinense. Using linear phenotypic-selection analyses, we found that directional selection acted to increase resistance to seven species. Selection was strongest to increase resistance to fruit feeders, followed by flower feeders, then leaf feeders. Selection favored a decrease in resistance to a stem borer. Bootstrapping analyses showed that the plant population contained significant genetic variation for each of 14 measured resistance traits and significant covariances in one-third of the pairwise combinations of resistance traits. These genetic covariances reduced the plant's overall predicted evolutionary response for resistance against the herbivore community by about 60%. Diffuse (co)evolution was widespread in this community, and the diffuse interactions had an overwhelmingly constraining (rather than facilitative) effect on the plant's evolution of resistance.

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