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Population Variation in Plant Traits Associated with Ant Attraction and Herbivory in Chamaecrista fasciculata (Fabaceae)

Rodrigo S. Rios, Robert J. Marquis and John C. Flunker
Oecologia
Vol. 156, No. 3 (Jun., 2008), pp. 577-588
Published by: Springer in cooperation with International Association for Ecology
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40213279
Page Count: 12
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Population Variation in Plant Traits Associated with Ant Attraction and Herbivory in Chamaecrista fasciculata (Fabaceae)
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Abstract

The benefits of ant-plant-herbivore interactions for the plant depend on the abundance of ants and herbivores and the selective pressures these arthropods exert. In plants bearing extrafloral nectaries (EFN), different mean trait values may be selected for by different populations in response to local herbivore pressure, ultimately resulting in the evolution of differences in plant traits that attract ants as defensive agents against herbivory. To determine if variation in traits that mediate ant-plant interactions reflect herbivore selective pressures, we quantified intra- and interpopulation variation in plant traits for eight populations of the EFN-bearing annual Chamaecrista fasciculata (Michx.) (Fabaceae). Censuses in rural and urban areas of Missouri and Illinois (USA) showed population differences in ant attendance and herbivore pressure. Seeds were collected from each population, and plants were grown in a common greenhouse environment to measure sugar production, nectar volume and composition, EFN size and time of emergence, leaf pubescence, and leaf quality throughout plant development. Populations varied mainly in terms of nectary size, sugar production, and nectar volume, but to a lesser degree in leaf pubescence. Populations of C. fasciculata within urban areas (low in insect abundance) had small nectaries and the lowest nectar production. There was a positive correlation across populations between herbivore density and leaf damage by those herbivores on the one hand and sugar production and nectar volume on the other. These results, in conjunction with lack of evidence for maternally based environmental effects, suggest that population differences in herbivore damage have promoted differential evolution of EFN-related traits among populations.

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