Friend or foe? A parasitic wasp shifts the cost/benefit ratio in a nursery pollination system impacting plant fitness.
ABSTRACT: Nursery pollination systems are species interactions where pollinators also act as fruit/seed herbivores of the plant partner. While the plants depend on associated insects for pollination, the insects depend on the plants' reproductive structures for larval development. The outcome of these interactions is thus placed on a gradient between mutualism and antagonism. Less specialized interactions may fluctuate along this gradient with the ecological context, where natural enemies can play an important role. We studied whether a natural enemy may impact the level of seed consumption of a nursery pollinator and how this in turn may influence individual plant fitness. We used the plant Silene latifolia, its herbivore Hadena bicruris, and its ectoparasitoid Bracon variator as a model plant-herbivore-natural enemy system. We investigated seed output, germination, survival, and flower production as proxies for individual plant fitness. We show that B. variator decreases the level of seed consumption by H. bicruris larvae which in turn increased seed output in S. latifolia plants, suggesting that parasitism by B. variator may act as a regulator in the system. However, our results also show that plant survival and flower production decrease with higher seed densities, and therefore, an increase in seed output may be less beneficial for plant fitness than estimated from seed output alone. Our study should add another layer to the complex discussion of whether parasitoids contribute to plant fitness, as we show that taking simple proxies such as seed output is insufficient to determine the net effect of multitrophic interactions.
Project description:Background:Plant reproduction is influenced by the net outcome of plant-herbivore and plant-pollinator interactions. While both herbivore impacts and pollinator impacts on plant reproduction have been widely studied, few studies examine them in concert. Methodology:Here, we review the contemporary literature that examines the net outcomes of herbivory and pollination on plant reproduction and the impacts of herbivores on pollination through damage to shared host plants using systematic review tools. The direct or indirect effects of herbivores on floral tissue and reported mechanisms were compiled including the taxonomic breadth of herbivores, plants and pollinators. Results:A total of 4,304 studies were examined producing 59 relevant studies for synthesis that reported both pollinator and herbivore measures. A total of 49% of studies examined the impact of direct damage to floral tissue through partial florivory while 36% of studies also examined the impact of vegetative damage on pollination through folivory, root herbivory, and stem damage. Only three studies examined the effects of both direct and indirect damage to pollination outcomes within the same study. Conclusions:It is not unreasonable to assume that plants often sustain simultaneous forms of damage to different tissues and that the net effects can be assessed through differences in reproductive output. Further research that controls for other relative drivers of reproductive output but examines more than one pathway of damage simultaneously will inform our understanding of the mechanistic relevance of herbivore impacts on pollination and also highlight interactions between herbivores and pollinators through plants. It is clear that herbivory can impact plant fitness through pollination; however, the relative importance of direct and indirect damage to floral tissue on plant reproduction is still largely unknown.
Project description:Neighboring plants within a local community may be separated by many millions of years of evolutionary history, potentially reducing enemy pressure by insect herbivores. However, it is not known how the evolutionary isolation of a plant affects the fitness of an insect herbivore living on such a plant, especially the herbivore's enemy pressure. Here, we suggest that evolutionary isolation of host plants may operate similarly as spatial isolation and reduce the enemy pressure per insect herbivore. We investigated the effect of the phylogenetic isolation of host trees on the pressure exerted by specialist and generalist enemies (parasitoids and birds) on ectophagous Lepidoptera and galling Hymenoptera. We found that the phylogenetic isolation of host trees decreases pressure by specialist enemies on these insect herbivores. In Lepidoptera, decreasing enemy pressure resulted from the density dependence of enemy attack, a mechanism often observed in herbivores. In contrast, in galling Hymenoptera, enemy pressure declined with the phylogenetic isolation of host trees per se, as well as with the parallel decline in leaf damage by non-galling insects. Our results suggest that plants that leave their phylogenetic ancestral neighborhood can trigger, partly through simple density-dependency, an enemy release and fitness increase of the few insect herbivores that succeed in tracking these plants.
Project description:Inbreeding and enemy infestation are common in plants and can synergistically reduce their performance. This inbreeding ×environment (I × E) interaction may be of particular importance for the success of plant invasions if introduced populations experience a release from attack by natural enemies relative to their native conspecifics. Here, we investigate whether inbreeding affects plant infestation damage, whether inbreeding depression in growth and reproduction is mitigated by enemy release, and whether this effect is more pronounced in invasive than native plant populations. We used the invader Silene latifolia and its natural enemies as a study system. We performed two generations of experimental out- and inbreeding within eight native (European) and eight invasive (North American) populations under controlled conditions using field-collected seeds. Subsequently, we exposed the offspring to an enemy exclusion and inclusion treatment in a common garden in the species' native range to assess the interactive effects of population origin (range), breeding treatment, and enemy treatment on infestation damage, growth, and reproduction. Inbreeding increased flower and leaf infestation damage in plants from both ranges, but had opposing effects on fruit damage in native versus invasive plants. Inbreeding significantly reduced plant fitness; whereby, inbreeding depression in fruit number was higher in enemy inclusions than exclusions. This effect was equally pronounced in populations from both distribution ranges. Moreover, the magnitude of inbreeding depression in fruit number was lower in invasive than native populations. These results support that inbreeding has the potential to reduce plant defenses in S. latifolia, which magnifies inbreeding depression in the presence of enemies. However, future studies are necessary to further explore whether enemy release in the invaded habitat has actually decreased inbreeding depression and thus facilitated the persistence of inbred founder populations and invasion success.
Project description:PREMISE:Plant maternal effects on offspring phenotypes are well documented. However, little is known about how herbivory on maternal plants affects offspring fitness. Furthermore, while inbreeding is known to reduce plant reproductive output, previous studies have not explored whether and how such effects may extend across generations. Here, we addressed the transgenerational consequences of herbivory and maternal plant inbreeding on the reproduction of Solanum carolinense offspring. METHODS:Manduca sexta caterpillars were used to inflict weekly damage on inbred and outbred S. carolinense maternal plants. Cross-pollinations were performed by hand to produce seed from herbivore-damaged outbred plants, herbivore-damaged inbred plants, undamaged outbred plants, and undamaged inbred plants. The resulting seeds were grown in the greenhouse to assess emergence rate and flower production in the absence of herbivores. We also grew offspring in the field to examine reproductive output under natural conditions. RESULTS:We found transgenerational effects of herbivory and maternal plant inbreeding on seedling emergence and reproductive output. Offspring of herbivore-damaged plants had greater emergence, flowered earlier, and produced more flowers and seeds than offspring of undamaged plants. Offspring of outbred maternal plants also had greater seedling emergence and reproductive output than offspring of inbred maternal plants, even though all offspring were outbred. Moreover, the effects of maternal plant inbreeding were more severe when plant offspring were grown in field conditions. CONCLUSIONS:This study demonstrates that both herbivory and inbreeding have fitness consequences that extend across generations even in outbred progeny.
Project description:Dioecy, a breeding system where individual plants are exclusively male or female, has evolved repeatedly. Extensive theory describes when dioecy should arise from hermaphroditism, frequently through gynodioecy, where females and hermaphrodites coexist, and when gynodioecy should be stable. Both pollinators and herbivores often prefer the pollen-bearing sex, with sex-specific fitness effects that can affect breeding system evolution. Nursery pollination, where adult insects pollinate flowers but their larvae feed on plant reproductive tissues, is a model for understanding mutualism evolution but could also yield insights into plant breeding system evolution. We studied a recently established nursery pollination interaction between native Hadena ectypa moths and introduced gynodioecious Silene vulgaris plants in North America to assess whether oviposition was biased toward females or hermaphrodites, which traits were associated with oviposition, and the effect of oviposition on host plant fitness. Oviposition was hermaphrodite-biased and associated with deeper flowers and more stems. Sexual dimorphism in flower depth, a trait also associated with oviposition on the native host plant (Silene stellata), explained the hermaphrodite bias. Egg-receiving plants experienced more fruit predation than plants that received no eggs, but relatively few fruits were lost, and egg receipt did not significantly alter total fruit production at the plant level. Oviposition did not enhance pollination; egg-receiving flowers usually failed to expand and produce seeds. Together, our results suggest that H. ectypa oviposition does not exert a large fitness cost on host plants, sex-biased interactions can emerge from preferences developed on a hermaphroditic host species, and new nursery pollination interactions can arise as negative or neutral rather than as mutualistic for the plant.
Project description:Plants show ontogenetic variation in growth-defence strategies to maximize reproductive output within a community context. Most work on plant ontogenetic variation in growth-defence trade-offs has focussed on interactions with antagonistic insect herbivores. Plants respond to herbivore attack with phenotypic changes. Despite the knowledge that plant responses to herbivory affect plant mutualistic interactions with pollinators required for reproduction, indirect interactions between herbivores and pollinators have not been included in the evaluation of how ontogenetic growth-defence trajectories affect plant fitness.In a common garden experiment with the annual Brassica nigra, we investigated whether exposure to various herbivore species on different plant ontogenetic stages (vegetative, bud or flowering stage) affects plant flowering traits, interactions with flower visitors and results in fitness consequences for the plant.Effects of herbivory on flowering plant traits and interactions with flower visitors depended on plant ontogeny. Plant exposure in the vegetative stage to the caterpillar Pieris brassicae and aphid Brevicoryne brassicae led to reduced flowering time and flower production, and resulted in reduced pollinator attraction, pollen beetle colonization, total seed production and seed weight. When plants had buds, infestation by most herbivore species tested reduced flower production and pollen beetle colonization. Pollinator attraction was either increased or reduced. Plants infested in the flowering stage with P. brassicae or Lipaphis erysimi flowered longer, while infestation by any of the herbivore species tested increased the number of flower visits by pollinators.Our results show that the outcome of herbivore-flower visitor interactions in B. nigra is specific for the combination of herbivore species and plant ontogenetic stage. Consequences of herbivory for flowering traits and reproductive output were strongest when plants were attacked early in life. Such differences in selection pressures imposed by herbivores to specific plant ontogenetic stages may drive the evolution of distinct ontogenetic trajectories in growth-defence-reproduction strategies and include indirect interactions between herbivores and flower visitors. Synthesis. Plant ontogeny can define the direct and indirect consequences of herbivory. Our study shows that the ontogenetic stage of plant individuals determined the effects of herbivory on plant flowering traits, interactions with flower visitors and plant fitness.
Project description:The mutualistic versus antagonistic nature of an interaction is defined by costs and benefits of each partner, which may vary depending on the environment. Contrasting with this dynamic view, several pollination interactions are considered as strictly obligate and mutualistic. Here, we focus on the interaction between Trollius europaeus and Chiastocheta flies, considered as a specialized and obligate nursery pollination system - the flies are thought to be exclusive pollinators of the plant and their larvae develop only in T. europaeus fruits. In this system, features such as the globelike flower shape are claimed to have evolved in a coevolutionary context. We examine the specificity of this pollination system and measure traits related to offspring fitness in isolated T. europaeus populations, in some of which Chiastocheta flies have gone extinct. We hypothesize that if this interaction is specific and obligate, the plant should experience dramatic drop in its relative fitness in the absence of Chiastocheta. Contrasting with this hypothesis, T. europaeus populations without flies demonstrate a similar relative fitness to those with the flies present, contradicting the putative obligatory nature of this pollination system. It also agrees with our observation that many other insects also visit and carry pollen among T. europaeus flowers. We propose that the interaction could have evolved through maximization of by-product benefits of the Chiastocheta visits, through the male flower function, and selection on floral traits by the most effective pollinator. We argue this mechanism is also central in the evolution of other nursery pollination systems.
Project description:Plant-pollinator interactions are complex because they are affected by both interactors' phenotypes and external variables. Herbivory is one external variable that can have divergent effects on the individual and the population levels depending on specific phenotypic plastic responses of a plant to herbivory. In the wild tomato, Solanum peruvianum, herbivory limits pollinator visits, which reduces individual plant fitness due to herbivore-induced chemical defenses and signaling on pollinators (herbivore-induced pollinator limitation). We showed these herbivory-induced decreases in pollination to individual plants best match a Type II functional-response curve. We then developed a general model that shows these individual fitness reductions from herbivore-induced changes in plant metabolism can indirectly benefit overall populations and community resilience. These results introduce mechanisms of persistence in antagonized mutualistic communities that were previously found prone to extinction in theoretical models. Results also imply that emergent ecological dynamics of individual fitness reductions may be more complex than previously thought.
Project description:Insect pollination of flowers should change the within-season allocation of resources in plants. But the nature of this life-history response, particularly regarding allocation to roots, photosynthetic structures, and flowers, is empirically unresolved. This study uses a greenhouse experiment to investigate the effect of insect pollination on the reproductive output of 23 varieties of a globally important crop-canola (Brassica napus). Overall, insect pollination modified the functional characteristics (flower timing & effort, plant size & shape, seed packaging, root biomass) of canola, increasing seed production and quality, and pollinator dependence. Reproductive output and pollinator dependence were defined by strong trait trade-offs, which ranged from more pollinator-dependent plants favouring early reproductive effort, to less pollinator-dependent plants favouring a prolonged phenology with smaller plant size and lower seed quality. Seed production decreased with pollinator dependence in the absence of pollinators. The agricultural preference for hybrid varieties will increase seed production compared to open-pollinated varieties, but, even so, pollinators typically enhance seed production of both types. Our study elucidates how insect pollination alters the character and function of a globally important crop, supporting optimization of yield via intensification of insect pollination, and highlights the beneficial effects of insect pollination early in the season.
Project description:Insect herbivores and fungal pathogens can independently affect plant fitness, and may have interactive effects. However, few studies have experimentally quantified the joint effects of insects and fungal pathogens on seed production in non-agricultural populations. We examined the factorial effects of insect herbivore exclusion (via insecticide) and fungal pathogen exclusion (via fungicide) on the population-level seed production of four common graminoid species (Andropogon gerardii, Schizachyrium scoparium, Poa pratensis, and Carex siccata) over two growing seasons in Minnesota, USA. We detected no interactive effects of herbivores and pathogens on seed production. However, the seed production of all four species was affected by either insecticide or fungicide in at least one year of the study. Insecticide consistently doubled the seed production of the historically most common species in the North American tallgrass prairie, A. gerardii (big bluestem). This is the first report of insect removal increasing seed production in this species. Insecticide increased A. gerardii number of seeds per seed head in one year, and mass per seed in both years, suggesting that consumption of flowers and seed embryos contributed to the effect on seed production. One of the primary insect species consuming A. gerardii flowers and seed embryos was likely the Cecidomyiid midge, Contarinia wattsi. Effects on all other plant species varied among years. Herbivores and pathogens likely reduce the dispersal and colonization ability of plants when they reduce seed output. Therefore, impacts on seed production of competitive dominant species may help to explain their relatively poor colonization abilities. Reduced seed output by dominant graminoids may thereby promote coexistence with subdominant species through competition-colonization tradeoffs.