The incorporation of plant tolerance after damage as a new alternative to cope with herbivory, as opposed to resistance, opened new avenues for our understanding of coevolution between plants and herbivores. Although genetic variation on tolerance to defoliation has been detected in some species, few studies have been undertaken with nonagricultural species. In this study, we explore in the annual weed Datura stramonium the existence of genetic variation for tolerance and fitness costs of tolerance. To determine which fitness-related trait was responsible for possible differences in tolerance, growth rate, total flower and fruit production, and the number of seeds per fruit were recorded. Inbred line replicates of D. stramonium from a population of Mexico City were exposed to four defoliation levels (0%, 10%, 30%, and 70%). Our results from a greenhouse experiment using controlled genetic material (inbred lines) indicated that significant genetic variation for tolerance was detected across defoliation environments. Defoliation reduced plant fitness from 15% to 25% in the highest levels of defoliation. Differences on tolerance among inbred lines were accounted by a differential reduction in the proportion of matured fruits across defoliation levels (up to 20%). Within defoliation levels, significant genetic variation in plant fitness suggests that tolerance could be selected. The correlation between fitness values of inbred lines in two environments (with and without damage) was positive (rg = 0.77), but not significant, suggesting absence of fitness costs for tolerance. The finding of genetic variation on tolerance might be either due to differences among inbred lines in their capability to overcome foliar damage through compensation or due to costs incurred by inducing secondary metabolites. Our results indicate the potential for norms of reaction to be selected under a gradient of herbivory pressure and highlights the importance of dissecting induced from compensatory responses when searching for potential causes of genetic variation on tolerance.
Corresponding Editor: C. Boggs