Trichome production and spatiotemporal variation in herbivory in the perennial herb Arabidopsis lyrata


  • Geir Løe,

  • Per Toräng,

  • Myriam Gaudeul,

  • Jon Ågren

G. Løe (, P. Toräng, M. Gaudeul and J. Ågren, Dept of Plant Ecology, Evolutionary Biology Centre, Uppsala Univ., Villavägen 14, SE-752 36 Uppsala, Sweden. Present adress for MG: Dépt Systématique et Evolution, Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle, 16 rue Buffon, FR-75005 Paris, France.


Allocation theory suggests that the optimal level of resistance against herbivores should vary with the risk of herbivory if allocation to resistance is costly. The perennial herb Arabidopsis lyrata has a genetically based polymorphism for trichome production and occurs in a glabrous and a trichome-producing form. Leaf trichomes (hairs) can protect plants against insect herbivores, and may increase tolerance to drought and UV-radiation. To examine the functional significance of trichome production, we documented the frequency of glabrous plants and damage by insect herbivores in 30 A. lyrata populations in Sweden and Norway. The proportion of glabrous plants ranged from 0.10 to 0.71 (median=0.44) in polymorphic populations; 7 of 12 populations in Norway and 14 of 18 populations in Sweden were monomorphic glabrous, i.e. with fewer than 5% trichome-producing plants. The mean proportion of the leaf area removed by herbivores varied substantially among populations and years. With few exceptions, glabrous plants were more damaged than trichome-producing plants in polymorphic populations. The intensity of herbivory quantified as the mean damage to glabrous plants tended to be higher in polymorphic populations than in populations monomorphic for the glabrous morph and was higher in Sweden than in Norway. In Norway, both the magnitude of herbivore damage and the frequency of trichome-producing plants tended to decrease with increasing altitude. The results indicate that leaf trichomes contribute to resistance against herbivorous insects in A. lyrata, and suggest that herbivore-mediated selection contributes to the maintenance of the polymorphism in trichome production.