The evolution of increased competitive ability hypothesis (EICA) predicts that when alien plants are free from their natural enemies they evolve lower allocation to defense in order to achieve a higher growth rate. If this hypothesis is true, the converse implication would be that the defense against herbivory could be restored if a natural enemy also becomes present in the introduced range. We tested this scenario in the case of Ambrosia artemisiifolia (common ragweed) - a species that invaded Japan from North America. We collected seeds from five North American populations, three populations in enemy free areas of Japan and four populations in Japan where the specialist herbivore Ophraella communa naturalized recently. Using plants grown in a common garden in Japan, we compared performance of O. communa with a bioassay experiment. Consistent with the EICA hypothesis, invasive Japanese populations of A. artemisiifolia exhibited a weakened defense against the specialist herbivores and higher growth rate than native populations. Conversely, in locations where the herbivore O. communa appeared during the past decade, populations of A. artemisiifolia exhibited stronger defensive capabilities. These results strengthen the case for EICA and suggest that defense levels of alien populations can be recuperated rapidly after the native specialist becomes present in the introduced range. Our study implies that the plant defense is evolutionary labile depending on plant-herbivore interactions.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)