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The association among herbivory tolerance, ploidy level, and herbivory pressure in cardamine pratensis

Boalt, Elin, Arvanitis, Leena, Lehtilä, Kari, Ehrlén, Johan
Evolutionary ecology 2010 v.24 no.5 pp. 1101-1113
Cardamine, asexual reproduction, butterflies, flowers, herbivores, tetraploidy
We tested whether differences in ploidy level and previous exposure to herbivory can affect plant tolerance to herbivory. We conducted a common garden experiment with 12 populations of two ploidy levels of the perennial herb Cardamine pratensis (five populations of tetraploid ssp. pratensis and seven populations of octoploid ssp. paludosa). Earlier studies have shown that attack rates by the main herbivore, the orange tip butterfly Anthocharis cardamines, are lower in populations of octoploids than in populations of tetraploids, and vary among populations. In the common garden experiment, a combination of natural and artificial damage significantly reduced seed and flower production. We measured tolerance based on four plant-performance metrics: survival, growth, seed production and clonal reproduction. For three of these measurements, tolerance of damage did not differ between ploidy levels. For clonal reproduction, the octoploids had a higher tolerance than the tetraploids, although they experience lower herbivore attack rates in natural populations. Populations from sites with high levels of herbivory had higher tolerance, measured by seed production, than populations with low levels of herbivory. We did not detect any significant costs of tolerance. We conclude that high intensity of herbivory has selected for high tolerance measured by seed production in C. pratensis.