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Keywords:

  • Brassicaceae;
  • Cardamine pratensis;
  • Dasineura cardaminis;
  • gall midge;
  • genotype–environment interaction;
  • habitat preference;
  • herbivory;
  • host shift;
  • plant polyploidy

Ecology Letters (2010) 13: 330–337

Abstract

Polyploidization is an important mechanism for sympatric speciation in plants. Still, we know little about whether plant polyploidization leads to insect host shifts, and if novel interactions influence habitat and trait selection in plants. We investigated herbivory by the flower bud gall-forming midge Dasineura cardaminis on tetraploids and octoploids of the herb Cardamine pratensis. Gall midges attacked only octoploid plant populations, and a transplantation experiment confirmed this preference. Attack rates were higher in populations that were shaded, highly connected or occurred along stream margins. Within populations, late-flowering individuals with many flowers were most attacked. Galling reduced seed production and significantly influenced phenotypic selection on flower number. Our results suggest that an increase in ploidy may lead to insect host shifts and that plant ploidy explains insect host use. In newly formed plant polyploids, novel interactions may alter habitat preferences and trait selection, and influence the further evolution of cytotypes.