, Volume 172, Issue 3, pp 823–832 | Cite as

Fitness costs of butterfly oviposition on a lethal non-native plant in a mixed native and non-native plant community

  • Mifuyu NakajimaEmail author
  • Carol L. Boggs
  • Sallie Bailey
  • Jennifer Reithel
  • Timothy Paape
Plant-animal interactions - Original research


Non-native plants may be unpalatable or toxic, but have oviposition cues similar to native plants used by insects. The herbivore will then oviposit on the plant, but the offspring will be unable to develop. While such instances have been described previously, the fitness costs at the population level in the wild due to the presence of the lethal host have not been quantified, for this or other related systems. We quantified the fitness cost in the field for the native butterfly Pieris macdunnoughii in the presence of the non-native crucifer Thlaspi arvense, based on the spatial distributions of host plants, female butterflies and eggs in the habitat and the survival of the larvae in the wild. We found that 2.9 % of eggs were laid on T. arvense on average, with a survival probability of 0, yielding a calculated fitness cost of 3.0 % (95 % confidence interval 1.7–3.6 %) due to the presence of the non-native in the plant community. Survival probability to the pre-pupal stage for eggs laid on two native crucifers averaged 1.6 % over 2 years. The magnitude of the fitness cost will vary temporally and spatially as a function of the relative abundance of the non-native plant. We propose that the fine-scale spatial structure of the plant community relative to the butterflies’ dispersal ability, combined with the females’ broad habitat use, contributes to the fitness costs associated with the non-native plant and the resulting evolutionary trap.


Brassicaceae Evolutionary trap Host mismatch Larval survival Pieridae 



This work conforms to the legal requirements of the USA. The authors thank J. Bowsher, A. Cathcart, E. Forwand, and R. Neill for field assistance, and T. Fukami, R. McCoy, W. Watt, A. Porter and an anonymous reviewer for comments on the manuscript. Funding came from the Stanford Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education’s Biology Field Studies Program, NSF REU site grant DBI 9987953 to RMBL, and the Stanford University Center for Conservation Biology’s Bing Fund.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mifuyu Nakajima
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Carol L. Boggs
    • 1
    • 2
  • Sallie Bailey
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Jennifer Reithel
    • 2
  • Timothy Paape
    • 2
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of BiologyStanford UniversityStanfordUSA
  2. 2.Rocky Mountain Biological LaboratoryCrested ButteUSA
  3. 3.Forestry CommissionEdinburghUK
  4. 4.Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental StudiesUniversity of ZurichZurichSwitzerland

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