Plant mating systems affect adaptive plasticity in response to herbivory



The fitness consequences of mating system variation (e.g. inbreeding) have been studied for at least 200 years, yet the ecological consequences of this variation remain poorly understood. Most plants are capable of inbreeding, and also exhibit a remarkable suite of adaptive phenotypic responses to ecological stresses such as herbivory. We tested the consequences of experimental inbreeding on phenotypic plasticity in resistance and growth (tolerance) traits in Solanum carolinense (Solanaceae). Inbreeding reduced the ability of plants to up-regulate resistance traits following damage. Moreover, inbreeding disrupted growth trait responses to damage, indicating the presence of deleterious mutations at loci regulating growth under stress. Production of the phytohormones abscisic and indole acetic acid, and wounding-induced up-regulation of the defence signalling phytohormone jasmonic acid were all significantly reduced under inbreeding, indicating a phytohormonal basis for inbreeding effects on growth and defence trait regulation. We conclude that the plasticity of induced responses is negatively affected by inbreeding, with implications for fragmented populations facing mate limitation and stress as a consequence of environmental change.