Herbivory is a ubiquitous component of terrestrial communities that reduces plant growth and reproduction. Consequently, a goal of evolutionary ecology is to identify the causes and consequences of variation in herbivory within plant populations. This three-year study examined the effects of inbreeding on the resistance of wild gourd plants (Cucurbita pepo subsp. texana) to herbivory by cucumber beetles and the impact of the timing of herbivory on reproduction. We grew families of inbred and outbred gourds and recorded beetle damage at three developmental stages, incidence of beetle-vectored wilt disease, survival, and reproduction. While total beetle damage significantly depressed flower and fruit production, damage until mid-July did not depress any measure of reproduction, indicating that these gourds are tolerant of moderate levels of herbivory for most of the growing season. However, beetle damage accumulating after mid-July significantly depressed reproduction, indicating that plants have reduced tolerance during peak reproduction. Early damage, however, did increase the probability of contracting a deadly wilt disease that is vectored by the beetles, suggesting that tolerance and resistance are not alternative defense strategies. Inbreeding significantly reduced resistance to herbivory and, independently of beetle damage, reproductive output. Finally, we found additive genetic variation for both resistance and tolerance that varies with ontogeny.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Plant Science