Florivores directly decrease the reproductive success of plants by consuming pollen and seeds; thus, plants often have defense mechanisms against florivory. Here, we show that the recurved phyllaries of an agamospermous hybrid dandelion, Taraxacum japonicum × officinale, function as a physical barrier to slug florivory. We allowed Lehmannia valentiana, a European slug naturalized in Japan, to feed on eight pairs of the hybrid dandelion and T. japonicum, a Japanese species with erect phyllaries. Consequently, the slugs only damaged T. platycarpum flowers. The slugs either moved back from recurved phyllaries or spent more than twice as long on recurved than on erect phyllaries. When we removed the recurved phyllaries, the slugs stayed on hybrid and T. japonicum phyllaries for equal lengths of time. In addition to recurved outer phyllaries, the hybrid dandelion has erect inner phyllaries that are longer than those of T. japonicum, which effectively conceal the florets at night protecting them from slug florivory. Using the taxonomic literature, we have confirmed that recurved phyllaries evolved in many species in several parts of Europe, but are rare in East Asia. These findings suggest that European dandelions acquired recurved phyllaries as a defense mechanism under antagonistic coevolution with florivorous slugs, but this coevolution did not occur in East Asia.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics