Trade-offs between chemical defence and regrowth capacity in Plantago lanceolata

J.H. Reudler, S.C. Honders, H. Turin, A. Biere

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Resistance and tolerance are different strategies of plants to deal with herbivore attack. Since resources are limited and resistance and tolerance serve similar functions for plants, trade-offs between these two strategies have often been postulated. In this study we investigated trade-offs between resistance and one aspect of tolerance, the ability to regrow after defoliation. In order to minimize confounding effects of genetic background and selection history, we used offspring derived from artificial selection lines of ribwort plantain (Plantago lanceolata) that differed in their levels of leaf iridoid glycosides (IGs), allelochemicals that confer resistance to generalist herbivores, to study genetic associations with regrowth ability. We tested whether high-IG plants (1) suffer allocation costs of resistance in terms of reduced shoot and root growth, (2) have reduced regrowth ability (tolerance) after defoliation compared to low-IG plants, and (3) whether such costs are more pronounced under nutrient stress. High-IG plants produced fewer inflorescences and side rosettes than low-IG plants and showed a different biomass allocation pattern, but since neither the vegetative, nor the reproductive biomass differed between the lines, there was no evidence for a cost of IG production in terms of total biomass production under either nutrient condition. High-IG plants also did not suffer a reduced capacity to regrow shoot mass after defoliation. However, after regrowth, root mass of high-IG plants grown under nutrient-poor conditions was significantly lower than that of low-IG plants. This suggests that under these conditions shoot regrowth of high-IG plants comes at a larger expense of root growth than in low-IG plants. We speculate therefore that if there is repeated defoliation, high-IG plants may eventually fail to maintain shoot regrowth capacity and that trade-offs between resistance and tolerance in this system will show up after repeated defoliation events under conditions of low resource availability.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)883-898
JournalEvolutionary Ecology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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