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Associational effects against a leaf beetle mediate a minority advantage in defense and growth between hairy and glabrous plants

Sato, Yasuhiro, Kudoh, Hiroshi
Evolutionary ecology 2016 v.30 no.1 pp. 137-154
Arabidopsis halleri, Phaedon, adults, biomass production, diet, dimorphism, herbivores, leaves, risk, trichomes
Based on the accumulation of evidence, the risk of herbivory depends not only on the traits of a plant but also on those of neighboring plants. Despite the potential importance of frequency-dependent interactions in the evolutionary stability of anti-herbivore defense, we know little about such associational effects between defended and undefended plants within a species. In this study, we determined whether the intraspecific associational effects against the oligophagous leaf beetle, Phaedon brassicae, caused a minority advantage in defense and growth between trichome-producing (hairy) and trichomeless (glabrous) plants of Arabidopsis halleri subsp. gemmifera. We experimentally demonstrated that the magnitude of herbivory and the number of adult beetles on hairy plants decreased when hairy plants were a minority, whereas the leaf damage and the beetle abundance did not differ between hairy and glabrous plants when glabrous plants were a minority. By contrast, the larvae of P. brassicae occurred less when hairy plants were a majority. We also found a reciprocal minority advantage in the biomass production for both hairy and glabrous plants. Additionally, the adults tended to attack glabrous leaves more rapidly than hairy ones, particularly when the beetles were starved or experienced glabrous diets. Furthermore, in the absence of herbivory, the growth of hairy plants tended to be slower than glabrous plants, which indicated a cost for the production of trichomes. Our study suggests that associational effects are a mechanism for the maintenance of trichome dimorphism by contributing to negative frequency-dependent growth.