Plant polyploidy and interactions with insect herbivores

University dissertation from Stockholm : Botaniska institutionen

Abstract: Polyploidization has been suggested to be a common mechanism for plant speciation. Polyploidy is associated with changes in plant traits and altered habitat preference. Antagonistic and mutualistic animals are known to discriminate between plants based on variation in such plant traits, suggesting that interactions may have an important role in divergence of plant polyploids after the polyploidization. In this thesis, I investigated the effect of insect herbivores on divergence of plant polyploids in a system consisting of the predispersal seed predator butterfly Anthocharis cardamines, the bud gall forming midge Dasineura cardaminis, and tetraploids and octoploids of the herb Cardamine pratensis. Octoploid populations occurred more often in shaded and nongrazed habitats than tetraploids. Octoploid plants were larger and had fewer but larger flowers than tetraploids. Butterfly attack rates were higher in tetraploid than in octoploid populations, whereas the gall midge attacked only octoploids. These differences were associated with higher abundance of butterflies in sunny habitats and gall midges in shaded habitats. In contrast to the pattern at the population level, octoploid flower shoots were more likely to be attacked by the butterfly in sympatric populations. Also trait selection differed between ploidy levels, both in the absence and in the presence of herbivores. In a field experiment, butterfly preference did not alter the trait selection in tetraploids. In octoploids, the two herbivores did not change selection considered separately. However, their joint effect resulted in significant selection for smaller flower shoots and reduced selection on number of flowers. This thesis demonstrates that differences in habitat preference and phenotypic plant traits between polyploid cytotypes can lead to altered interactions with herbivores. Such differences in interactions with animals may alter not only the relative fitness of cytotypes but also trait selection within the respective ploidy type.

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