Costs of glandular trichomes in Datura wrightii: a three-year study

J.D. Hare, E. Elle, N.M. Van Dam

    Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review


    Models accounting for genetic variation for resistance to herbivores within plant populations often postulate a balance between the costs of that resistance and its benefits. The production of glandular trichomes by Datura wrightii was shown to be costly in a previous one-year study because plants producing glandular trichomes (sticky plants), a factor conferring resistance to some insect herbivores, also produced 45% fewer seeds than plants producing nonglandular trichomes (velvety plants) when grown in a common garden. Because sticky plants tended to be larger than velvety plants but produced fewer seed capsules, we postulated an allocation trade-off in which velvety plants are more reproduction-dominated whereas sticky plants are more growth-dominated. If a greater commitment to vegetative growth eventually allows sticky plants to compensate for reduced seed production, we would expect a reduction or elimination of the cost of resistance over time in this perennial plant. We monitored growth, survival, and seed production of plants from defined crosses of local populations for three years in a common garden when exposed to and protected from herbivores, and with and without supplemental water. The majority of plants exposed to herbivores had died by the end of the study. We used standard life-table methods to determine the net reproductive rate (R0) and the finite rate of increase () of plants of each trichome type. After three years, when plants were protected from herbivores, sticky plants were 187–245% larger than velvety plants, depending upon irrigation treatment, but sticky plants continued to be less efficient in producing seeds per unit of canopy volume. Even though the total seed production of sticky plants eventually equaled that of velvety plants, the advantage of earlier reproduction by velvety plants increased by 55–230% over that of sticky plants, depending upon herbivore and irrigation treatment. Exposure to herbivores reduced by 69–83%, depending upon plant type and irrigation treatment, whereas supplemental irrigation increased by 29–175%, depending upon plant type and exposure to herbivores. Although there was a large allocation trade-off between growth and reproduction, the benefits of such a trade-off did not emerge before most plants were killed by herbivores. The cost of producing glandular trichomes strictly for herbivore resistance continued to exceed its benefits, and in the absence of other, unmeasured benefits from the suite of life-history characters associated with glandular trichome production, natural selection is expected to eliminate this costly resistance trait from D. wrightii populations [KEYWORDS: Allocation trade-offs, cost of resistance, Datura wrightii, demographic analysis, herbivory, resistance polymorphism, trichomes]
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)793-805
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2003


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