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Complex consequences of herbivory and interplant cues in three annual plants.

  • Author(s): Pearse, Ian S
  • Porensky, Lauren M
  • Yang, Louie H
  • Stanton, Maureen L
  • Karban, Richard
  • Bhattacharyya, Lisa
  • Cox, Rosa
  • Dove, Karin
  • Higgins, August
  • Kamoroff, Corrina
  • Kirk, Travis
  • Knight, Christopher
  • Koch, Rebecca
  • Parker, Corwin
  • Rollins, Hilary
  • Tanner, Kelsey
  • et al.
Abstract

Information exchange (or signaling) between plants following herbivore damage has recently been shown to affect plant responses to herbivory in relatively simple natural systems. In a large, manipulative field study using three annual plant species (Achyrachaena mollis, Lupinus nanus, and Sinapis arvensis), we tested whether experimental damage to a neighboring conspecific affected a plant's lifetime fitness and interactions with herbivores. By manipulating relatedness between plants, we assessed whether genetic relatedness of neighboring individuals influenced the outcome of having a damaged neighbor. Additionally, in laboratory feeding assays, we assessed whether damage to a neighboring plant specifically affected palatability to a generalist herbivore and, for S. arvensis, a specialist herbivore. Our study suggested a high level of contingency in the outcomes of plant signaling. For example, in the field, damaging a neighbor resulted in greater herbivory to A. mollis, but only when the damaged neighbor was a close relative. Similarly, in laboratory trials, the palatability of S. arvensis to a generalist herbivore increased after the plant was exposed to a damaged neighbor, while palatability to a specialist herbivore decreased. Across all species, damage to a neighbor resulted in decreased lifetime fitness, but only if neighbors were closely related. These results suggest that the outcomes of plant signaling within multi-species neighborhoods may be far more context-specific than has been previously shown. In particular, our study shows that herbivore interactions and signaling between plants are contingent on the genetic relationship between neighboring plants. Many factors affect the outcomes of plant signaling, and studies that clarify these factors will be necessary in order to assess the role of plant information exchange about herbivory in natural systems.

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