Alien plant species and the re-associated introduced herbivore are well-suited for gaining insights into ecological interactions between species and their evolutionary consequences. Ambrosia artemisiifolia was introduced to Japan in the 1880s, and its specialist insect herbivore Ophraella communa was introduced in 1996. Here, we experimentally tested the hypothesis that O. communa mediates selection on flowering phenology of A. artemisiifolia. We grew plants from stored seeds collected in 1998, 2000, 2002, 2006 and 2009 and measured phenotypic selection on the first flowering date in a common garden where half of the plants were protected from herbivore damage. We observed stabilizing selection for flowering day in the absence of herbivores but directional selection toward earlier flowering when herbivores were present. Flowering time differed between seeds collected in different years, but these differences showed no clear trend and the flowering time fluctuated from year to year. We conclude that the introduced specialist herbivore mediates directional selection for earlier flowering, but that its introduction has not been associated with a change in flowering time. The lack of evolutionary change may be due to limited genetic variation or that selection by the herbivore is counteracted by selection through other selective agents in some years.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics