, Volume 146, Issue 4, pp 566–571 | Cite as

Induced defense in Nicotiana attenuata (Solanaceae) fruit and flowers

Plant Animal Interactions


Plants protect themselves against herbivory using a continuum of strategies, ranging from constitutive defenses to intermittent induced responses. Induced defenses may not provide immediate and maximum protection, but could be advantageous when continuous defense is either energetically or ecologically costly. As such, induced defenses in flowers could help defend relatively valuable tissue while keeping reproductive structures accessible and attractive to pollinators. Thus far, no one has demonstrated the efficacy of induced defenses against floral herbivores (florivores) in the field. Here we show that mechanical leaf damage in wild tobacco, Nicotiana attenuata (Solanaceae), reduced both flower and fruit herbivory in the field and that exogenous application of methyl jasmonate, a potent elicitor of induced responses, reduced both leaf and floral damage in natural populations. This result is consistent with a survey of damage in the field, which showed a negative relationship between leaf damage and flower and fruit damage. Although optimal defense theory predicts that induced defenses should be rare in reproductive tissues, owing to their high fitness value, our results suggest otherwise. Induced defenses in leaves and reproductive tissues may allow plants to respond effectively to the concomitant pressures of defending against herbivory and attracting pollinators.


Florivory Induced defense Nicotiana Optimal defense theory 



We thank Dan Dawson for allowing the use of SNARL facilities and property for our experiments. Mikaela Huntzinger, Rebecca Balogh, and Sarah Elmendorf all helped with field work. Comments on this manuscript were contributed by Lynn Adler, Judie Bronstein, Jay Rosenheim, Sharon Strauss, and two anonymous reviewers. We thank Lynn Adler and Rebecca Irwin for access to unpublished works. A.M. was supported with a Ford Foundation Predoctoral Grant, a UC-Davis Jastro-Shields award, a University of California NRS Mathias Grant, the UC-Davis Entomology Department, and the UC-Davis Center for Population Biology. R.K. was supported by an NSF grant # DEB 0121050. We also thank the UC-Davis Plant-Insect group for stimulating comments during the project.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Population Biology, Department of EntomologyUniversity of CaliforniaDavisUSA

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