, Volume 49, Issue 3, pp 287–292

Evolution by individuals, plant-herbivore interactions, and mosaics of genetic variability: The adaptive significance of somatic mutations in plants

  • Thomas G. Whitham
  • C. N. Slobodchikoff

DOI: 10.1007/BF00347587

Cite this article as:
Whitham, T.G. & Slobodchikoff, C.N. Oecologia (1981) 49: 287. doi:10.1007/BF00347587


Differences in the pattern of organization of organisms may lead to different patterns of evolution, genetics and ecology, Plants and animals differ in their fundamental patterns of organization. Plants consist of a series of repeating units that compete with one another, while animals consist of mutually interdependent systems that cannot compete. As a result, plants may be able to take advantage of somatic mutations in ways that are not available to animals. Somatic mutations arising in plants can be inherited by naturally occurring mechanisms of sexual and asexual reproduction. Long life span, large clone size, and the complete regeneration of buds each year may permit an indivdual plant or clone to evolve. Plants may even develop as mosaics of genetic variation. Evolution by individual plants and/or development as mosaics of genetic variation may prevent herbivores from breaking the defenses of their host plants. This evolution may also result in greater “fine tuning” to local environments leading to ecotypic variation.

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas G. Whitham
    • 1
    • 2
  • C. N. Slobodchikoff
    • 2
  1. 1.Harold S. Colton Research CenterMuseum of Northern ArizonaFlagstaffUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesNorthern Arizona UniversityFlagstaffUSA