Original Paper


, Volume 101, Issue 1, pp 75-85

First online:

Genetic variation in defensive chemistry in Plantago lanceolata (Plantaginaceae) and its effect on the specialist herbivore Junonia coenia (Nymphalidae)

  • Lynn S. AdlerAffiliated withDepartment of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Brown University
  • , Johanna SchmittAffiliated withDepartment of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Brown University
  • , M. Deane BowersAffiliated withUniversity Museum, Department of Environmental, Population and Organismic Biology, University of Colorado

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To examine genetic variation in defensive chemistry within and between natural populations of Plantago lanceolata, we performed a greenhouse experiment using clonal replicates of 15 genotypes from each of two populations, from a mowed lawn and an abandoned hayfield. Replicates of each genotype were harvested for determinations of aboveground biomass and leaf chemical content either at the beginning of the experiment (initial controls), after exposure to herbivory by larvae of Junonia coenia, a specialist on P. lanceolata (herbivory treatment), or at the end of the experiment without exposure to herbivory (final controls). Allocation to the iridoid glycosides aucubin and catalpol and the phenylpropanoid glycoside verbascoside displayed significant genetic variation within and between populations, and differed with leaf age. Significant genotypextreatment interactions indicated genetic variation in response of leaf chemistry to the treatments. There was no evidence for a cost of allocation to chemical defense: genetic correlations within and between chemical pathways and between defensive chemicals and aboveground growth were positive or nonsignificant. Although iridoid glycosides are known to be qualitative feeding stimulants for J. coenia, multiple regression of larval survivorship on leaf chemical content and shoot biomass indicated that larvae had lower survivorship on P. lanceolata ge-notypes with higher concentrations of aucubin in the leaves. Larval survivorship was unaffected by levels of catalpol and verbascoside. Thus, although specialist herbivores may respond to defensive chemicals as qualitative feeding stimulants, they do not necessarily have higher fitness on plant genotypes containing higher concentrations of these chemicals.

Key words

Cost of defense Iridoid glycosides Junonia coenia Plantago lanceolata Verbascoside