Evolutionary Ecology

, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp 337–355 | Cite as

Effects of life history, domestication and agronomic selection on plant defence against insects: Evidence from maizes and wild relatives

  • JOSHUA P. Rosenthal
  • RODOLFO Dirzo


Plant domestication and agronomic selection for increased yield may have an associated effect of reducing plant defence against herbivorous insects. This hypothesis is based on evidence for a metabolic cost associated with defence, and on evidence that increases in yield generally come from the re-partitioning of photoassimilates rather than from fundamental increases in photosynthetic rates. We propose that for plants in which domestication and crop development constitute strong selection for increased growth and reproduction, reallocation of resources may result in lower defence against insects. We examine this hypothesis by means of comparative studies of growth, reproduction and resistance in a complex of maizes and closely related wild taxa, the teosintes. The results of these studies are consistent with assumptions of differential investment in growth and reproduction between wild and domesticated plants. A wild perennial grew slowest and had lowest grain production, while a modern cultivar grew fastest and had the highest grain yield. A wild annual and a land-race cultivar were intermediate. Damage from a diverse assemblage of folivorous insects, and from a specialist stemboring lepidopteran larva, fit the defence predictions closely. A gradient of attack levels suggests that the wild perennial is most defended, followed in descending order by the wild annual, the land-race cultivar and the modern high-yielding variety. Alternative hypotheses for this pattern are consistent with some, but not all, of our data.

cost of defence Diatraea grandiosella growth rate Mexico resource allocation Zea spp 


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Copyright information

© Chapman and Hall 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • JOSHUA P. Rosenthal
    • 1
  • RODOLFO Dirzo
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Integrative BiologyUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA
  2. 2.Istituto de Ecologi´a, UNAMMexico D.F.

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