, Volume 165, Issue 4, pp 971-981
Date: 20 Oct 2010

Differentiation and adaptation in Brassica nigra populations: interactions with related herbivores

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Abstract

Local adaptation and population differentiation of plants are well documented, but studies on interactions with natural enemies are rare. In particular, evidence for plant adaptation to the local biotic environment, such as herbivores remains poor. We used the black mustard Brassica nigra, an annual species of river valley and coastal habitats to (1) analyse population differentiation in plant traits and herbivory in a common garden experiment, (2) examine home versus away differences in a reciprocal transplant experiment and (3) test whether plants are adapted to local herbivores or vice versa under standard greenhouse conditions. In the common garden experiment, we found significant differentiation in plant traits, leaf damage and herbivore number among seven populations of B. nigra from France and Germany (distance 15–1,000 km). Differences were particularly strong among coastal and river valley populations and did not necessarily increase with geographical distance. A herbivore removal treatment did not change population differentiation when compared with the control allowing natural colonisation. The reciprocal transplant experiment at a scale of 15–30 km did not reveal local plant adaptation, whilst one dominant herbivore species (Meligethes aeneus) occurred in significantly higher numbers on local plants. A greenhouse experiment combining three aphid (Brevicoryne brassicae) and plant populations of the same provenance indicated herbivore adaptation to their local plants rather than plant adaptation, but overall contrasts between local and non-local combinations were not significant. The results suggest that herbivores may counteract local plant adaptation to other environmental factors. Our study has important implications for plant translocations in ecological restoration projects.

Communicated by Miguel Franco.