Loss of specificity: native but not invasive populations of Triadica sebifera vary in tolerance to different herbivores
During introduction, invasive plants can be released from specialist herbivores, but may retain generalist herbivores and encounter novel enemies. For fast-growing invasive plants, tolerance of herbivory via compensatory regrowth may be an important defense against generalist herbivory, but it is unclear whether tolerance responses are specifically induced by different herbivores and whether specificity differs among native and invasive plant populations. We conducted a greenhouse experiment to examine the variation among native and invasive populations of Chinese tallow tree, Triadica sebifera, in their specificity of tolerance responses to herbivores by exposing plants to herbivory from either one of two generalist caterpillars occurring in the introduced range of Triadica. Simultaneously, we measured the specificity of another defensive trait, extrafloral nectar (EFN) production, to detect potential tradeoffs between resistance and tolerance of herbivores. Invasive populations had higher aboveground biomass tolerance than native populations, and responded non-specifically to either herbivore, while native populations had significantly different and specific aboveground biomass responses to the two herbivores. Both caterpillar species similarly induced EFN in native and invasive populations. Plant tolerance and EFN were positively correlated or had no relationship and biomass in control and herbivore-damaged plants was positively correlated, suggesting little costs of tolerance. Relationships among these vegetative traits depended on herbivore type, suggesting that some defense traits may have positive associations with growth-related processes that are differently induced by herbivores. Importantly, loss of specificity in invasive populations indicates subtle evolutionary changes in defenses in invasive plants that may relate to and enhance their invasive success.