, Volume 148, Issue 3, pp 414–425 | Cite as

Tall herb herbivory resistance reflects historic exposure to leaf beetles in a boreal archipelago age-gradient

  • Johan A. StenbergEmail author
  • Johanna Witzell
  • Lars Ericson
Plant Animal Interactions


In this paper, we introduce the coevolution-by-coexistence hypothesis which predicts that the strength of a coevolutionary adaptation will become increasingly apparent as long as the corresponding selection from an interacting counterpart continues. Hence, evolutionary interactions between plants and their herbivores can be studied by comparing discrete plant populations with known history of herbivore colonization. We studied populations of the host plant, Filipendula ulmaria (meadow sweet), on six islands, in a Bothnian archipelago subject to isostatic rebound, that represent a spatio-temporal gradient of coexistence with its two major herbivores, the specialist leaf beetles Galerucella tenella and Altica engstroemi. Regression analyses showed that a number of traits important for insect-plant interactions (leaf concentrations of individual phenolics and condensed tannins, plant height, G. tenella adult feeding and oviposition) were significantly correlated with island age. First, leaf concentrations of condensed tannins and individual phenolics were positively correlated with island age, suggesting that plant resistance increased after herbivore colonization and continued to increase in parallel to increasing time of past coexistence, while plant height showed a reverse negative correlation. Second, a multi-choice experiment with G. tenella showed that both oviposition and leaf consumption of the host plants were negatively correlated with island age. Third, larvae performed poorly on well-defended, older host populations and well on less-defended, younger populations. Thus, no parameter assessed in this study falsifies the coevolution-by-coexistence hypothesis. We conclude that spatio-temporal gradients present in rising archipelagos offer unique opportunities to address evolutionary interactions, but care has to be taken as abiotic (and other biotic) factors may interact in a complicated way.


Coevolution Filipendula ulmaria Galerucella tenella Plant–herbivore interaction Selection gradient 



We thank Kjell Leonardsson for help with the ANOVA resampling (Adult preference) and the statistical analysis, Hans Gardfjell for statistical advice, and Aron Ericson, Ingrid Ericson, Mirjam Ericson, Ann-Helen Mäki, Ann Sehlstedt, and Mårten Söderquist for assistance in the greenhouse experiments. We are also grateful to three anonymous reviewers for comments that improved an earlier draft of this paper. This study was supported by the Swedish Research Council (VR). All experiments presented here comply with the current laws of Sweden.

Supplementary material

442_2006_390_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (55 kb)
Supplementary material


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Johan A. Stenberg
    • 1
    Email author
  • Johanna Witzell
    • 2
  • Lars Ericson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Environmental ScienceUmeå UniversityUmeåSweden
  2. 2.Umeå Plant Science Centre, Department of Forest Genetics and Plant PhysiologySwedish University of Agricultural SciencesUmeåSweden

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