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Optimal strategy of plant antiherbivore defense: Implications for apparency and resource-availability theories

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Ecological Research

Abstract

Plants produce chemicals as methods against animal herbivory. Such chemical defenses are classified into two major categories: (i) quantitative defenses with massive production of indigestible substances; and (ii) qualitative defenses with production of poisonous substances. A mathematical model was developed that identified factors that favored the evolution of quantitative defenses. Selecting an annual plant for simplicity, the allocation of photosynthetic production between growth substances and defense substances was considered. If the plant invests more in defense substances, it can protect itself more efficiently from herbivory but with a reduced growth rate. If it invests more in growth substances, the contrary holds. Using Pontoryagin's maximum principle, the following results were obtained: (i) the plant should conduct quantitative defenses when the growth rate (G), reflecting resource-availability, is low and the growth period (T) is long as well; (ii) if the plant invests in quantitative defenses, the optimal proportion of defense substances (χ*) should be higher asG is smaller, but it is independent ofT; and (iii) the value of χ* is not monotone for the effectiveness of defense substance (A), but has a maximum at an intermediate value ofA. Predictions of the model partly supported both Feeny's apparency theory, claiming that apparent plants or their parts for herbivores should quantitatively defend themselves, and Coley's resource-availability theory, claiming that plants with rich resources should invest in growth rather than defense.

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Yamamura, N., Tsuji, N. Optimal strategy of plant antiherbivore defense: Implications for apparency and resource-availability theories. Ecol. Res. 10, 19–30 (1995). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02347652

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02347652

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