Fruit defence syndromes: the independent evolution of mechanical and chemical defences

Abstract

Plants are prone to attack by a great diversity of antagonists against which they deploy various defence mechanisms, of which the two principle ones are mechanical and chemical defences. These defences are hypothesized to be negatively correlated due to either functional redundancy or a trade-off, i.e., plants which rely on increased mechanical defence should downregulate their degree of chemical defence and vice versa. A competing hypothesis is that different defences perform distinct functions and draw from different pools of resources, which should result in their independent evolution. We examine these competing hypotheses using two independent datasets of fleshy fruits we collected from Madagascar and Uganda. We sampled mechanical defences, indexed by fruit puncture resistance, and defensive defences, indexed by defensive volatile organic compounds, and examined their associations using phylogenetically-controlled models. In both systems, we found no correlation between mechanical and chemical defences, thus supporting the independent evolution hypothesis. This implies that fruit defence mechanisms reflect a more complex array of selection pressures and constraints than previously perceived.

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Acknowledgements

We thank Lisa A. D’Agostino for her assistance in conducting the chemical analysis. We thank the Canada Research Chairs Program, Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Fonds Québécois de la Recherche sur la Nature et les Technologies, the National Geographic Society for funding. ON was funded by a German Science Foundation grant (NE 2156/1-1) while working on this manuscript. We thank MICET and Madagascar National Parks, for permission to conduct this research in Madagascar. We are grateful to Paul Tsiveraza, Francette, Mamy Razafitsalama and Jean de-la-Dieu for contributions in the field.

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Correspondence to Omer Nevo.

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Nevo, O., Valenta, K., Tevlin, A.G. et al. Fruit defence syndromes: the independent evolution of mechanical and chemical defences. Evol Ecol 31, 913–923 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10682-017-9919-y

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Keywords

  • Animal-plant interactions
  • Fleshy fruits
  • Mechanical defence
  • Chemical defence
  • Constraints
  • Trade-off