Are Defenses of Wild Radish Populations Well Matched with Variability and Predictablity of Herbivory?
- Cite this article as:
- Karban, R. & Nagasaka, K. Evol Ecol (2004) 18: 283. doi:10.1023/B:EVEC.0000035063.70344.03
Theory predicts that plants should employ constitutive (fixed) defenses when herbivory is consistently strong among years and induced (plastic) defenses when herbivory varies among years but is predictable within a season. We tested this theory by examining the herbivore species and damage censused over three seasons for 20 populations of wild radish in northern California. We conducted assays of constitutive resistance by challenging undamaged plants from these 20 populations with their common herbivores in the greenhouse. We assayed induced resistance by comparing the performance of herbivores on plants that had been experimentally damaged to undamaged plants from the same populations. Following damage, plants generally became more resistant to chewing herbivores (caterpillars) but more susceptible to sucking herbivores (aphids). Constitutive resistance to caterpillars was not stronger for populations that had high levels of herbivory that varied little among years, contrary to theory. Induced resistance may be stronger for plants from populations where herbivory varied more among years, consistent with expectations, although low power makes this conclusion equivocal. Induced resistance was not stronger for populations where early herbivory was a good predictor of late season herbivory. This lack of support for theory could have been caused by inadequacies with the experimental tests or with the theory and its assumptions. The theory assumes a coevolutionary equilibrium; however, high gene flow that has been reported for wild radish could disrupt matches between risk of herbivory and plant defense. The theory also assumes that resistance traits evolved as defenses against herbivory although these traits also serve other functions. Finally, the correlation we measured between early and late season herbivory may be at a temporal scale that is irrelevant since wild radish appears to adjust its defenses very rapidly.