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Open Access Research article

Effects of willow hybridisation and simulated browsing on the development and survival of the leaf beetle Phratora vitellinae

Per Hallgren

Author Affiliations

Department of Animal Ecology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, SLU. Se-901 83 Umeå, Sweden

BMC Ecology 2003, 3:5  doi:10.1186/1472-6785-3-5

Published: 24 June 2003

Abstract

Background

Interspecific hybridisation is common between many plant species and causes rapid changes in a variety of plant characters. This may pose problems for herbivores because changes in recognition characters may be poorly correlated with changes in quality characters. Many studies have examined different systems of hybrids and herbivores in attempts to understand the role of hybridisation in the evolution of plant resistance. The results from different systems are variable. Studies of hybrids between Salix caprea (L., Salicaceae) and S. repens show that they are intermediate between the two parental species in most resistence characters. However, a plants herbivore resistence depends also on its biotic and abiotic environment. Important biotic factors that may influence plant growth and plant chemistry include the interactions between different herbivores that occur through their exploitation of common host plants. Although the effects on plants of previous herbivory are likely to be strongly affected by environmental conditions, they are also species-specific. Damage may therefore have different effects on hybrids than on their parental species, and this could influence the performance of herbivores on pure and hybrid species of plants. To evaluate the effects of hybridisation on insect performance, the development and survival rates of Phratora vitellinae (L. 1758, Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) larvae on pure S. repens, pure S. caprea and Fl hybrids of the two species was monitored. Further, to examine the effect of herbivorous mammals on the performance of the larvae, plants were damaged to simulate winter foraging by voles or spring leaf stripping by moose.

Results

The results show that development rates were highest on S. repens and equally low on S. caprea and the Fl hybrid. In addition, development of the plants treated to simulate mammalian herbivore damage was slower than that of corresponding controls.

Conclusions

The results of this experiment suggest that P. vitellinae has a higher development rate, and thus probably higher performance, on species with high concentrations of phenolic glucosides. Therefore, it would be of adaptive benefit for P. vitellinae females to have an ovipositional preference for S. repens, compared to S. caprea and intermediate preference for Fl hybrids. The faster development observed on S. repens supports the hypothesis that P. vitellinae obtains additional adaptive benefits from phenolic glucosides beyond protection against predators. Therefore, it is important to consider further factors, such as damage caused by other herbivores, when studying this hybrid complex.