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Temporal consistency in herbivore responses to glucosinolate polymorphism in populations of wild cabbage (Brassica oleracea)

By Erika Newton, James M. Bullock and Dave Hodgson


Natural populations of wild cabbage (Brassica oleracea) show significant qualitative diversity in heritable aliphatic glucosinolates, a class of secondary metabolites involved in defence against herbivore attack. One candidate mechanism for the maintenance of this diversity is that differential responses among herbivore species result in a net fitness balance across plant chemotypes. Such top-down differential selection would be promoted by consistent responses of herbivores to glucosinolates, temporal variation in herbivore abundance, and fitness impacts of herbivore attack on plants varying in glucosinolate profile. A 1-year survey across 12 wild cabbage populations demonstrated differential responses of herbivores to glucosinolates. We extended this survey to investigate the temporal consistency of these responses, and the extent of variation in abundance of key herbivores. Within plant populations, the aphid Brevicoryne brassicae consistently preferred plants producing the glucosinolate progoitrin. Among populations, increasing frequencies of sinigrin production correlated positively with herbivory by whitefly Aleyrodes proletella and negatively with herbivory by snails. Two Pieris butterfly species showed no consistent response to glucosinolates among years. Rates of herbivory varied significantly among years within populations, but the frequency of herbivory at the population scale varied only for B. brassicae. B. brassicae emerges as a strong candidate herbivore to impose differential selection on glucosinolates, as it satisfies the key assumptions of consistent preferences and heterogeneity in abundance. We show that variation in plant secondary metabolites structures the local herbivore community and that, for some key species, this structuring is consistent over time. We discuss the implications of these patterns for the maintenance of diversity in plant defence chemistr

Topics: Biology and Microbiology, Ecology and Environment
Publisher: Springer
Year: 2010
DOI identifier: 10.1007/s00442-010-1702-5
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