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Evolutionary Ecology of Datura stramonium L. In Central Mexico: Natural Selection for Resistance to Herbivorous Insects

Juan Nunez-Farfan and Rodolfo Dirzo
Evolution
Vol. 48, No. 2 (Apr., 1994), pp. 423-436
DOI: 10.2307/2410102
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2410102
Page Count: 14
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Evolutionary Ecology of Datura stramonium L. In Central Mexico: Natural Selection for Resistance to Herbivorous Insects
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Abstract

It has been assumed that herbivores constitute a selective agent for the evolution of plant resistance. However, few studies have tested this hypothesis. In this study, we look at the annual weed Datura stramonium for evidence of current natural selection for resistance to herbivorous insects. Paternal half-sib families obtained through controlled crosses were exposed to herbivores under natural conditions. The plants were damaged by two folivorous insects: the tobacco flea beetle Epitrix parvula and the grasshopper Sphenarium purpurascens. Selection was estimated using a multiple-regression analysis of plant size and of damage by the two herbivores on plant fitness measured as fruit production for both individual phenotypes and family breeding values (genetic analysis). Directional phenotypic selection was detected for both larger plant size and lower resistance to the flea beetles, whereas stabilizing phenotypic selection was revealed for resistance to S. purpurascens. However, performing the same analyses on the breeding values of the characters revealed directional and stabilizing selection only for plant size. Thus, no agreement existed between the results of the two types of analyses, nor was there any detectable potential for genetic change in the studied population because of selection on herbivore resistance. The narrow-sense heritability of every trait studied was small (all <0.1) and not different from zero. The potential for evolutionary response to natural selection for higher resistance to herbivores in the studied population of D. stramonium is probably limited by lack of genetic variation. Natural selection acts on phenotypes, and the detection of phenotypic selection on resistance to herbivores confirms their ecological importance in determining plant fitness. However, evolutionary inferences based solely on phenotypic selection analyses must be interpreted with caution.

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