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Keywords:

  • coevolution;
  • Datura ;
  • herbivory;
  • rapid evolution;
  • resistance;
  • resurrection experiment;
  • tolerance

Abstract

Both theoretical and empirical works have highlighted the difference in the evolutionary implications of host resistance and tolerance against their enemies. However, it has been difficult to show evolutionary changes in host defences in natural populations; thus, evaluating theoretical predictions of simultaneous evolution of defences remains a challenge. We studied the evolutionary changes in traits related to resistance and tolerance against herbivory in a natural plant population using seeds from two collections made in a period of 20 years. In a common garden experiment, we compared defensive traits of ancestral (1987) and descendant (2007) subpopulations of the annual plant Datura stramonium that shows genetic variation for tolerance and to which the specialist herbivore Lema daturaphila is locally adapted. We also examined the effects of different plant genotypes on the herbivore for testing the plant genetic variation in resistance. Based on the response to the contemporary herbivore populations, results revealed a nonsignificant response in plant resistance traits (herbivore consumption, foliar trichomes and tropane alkaloids), but a significant one in tolerance. The survival of herbivores in laboratory experiments depended on the plant genotype, which suggests genetic variation in plant resistance. Although we cannot identify the selective agent for the change nor exclude genetic drift, the results are consistent with the expectation that when resistance fails to control herbivory, tolerance should play a more important role in the evolution of the interaction.