A test of genotypic variation in specificity of herbivore-induced responses in Solidago altissima L. (Asteraceae)

Uesugi, A.; Poelman, E.H.; Kessler, A.


Plant-induced responses to multiple herbivores can mediate ecological interactions among herbivore species, thereby influencing herbivore community composition in nature. Several studies have indicated high specificity of induced responses to different herbivore species. In addition, there may be genetic variation for plant response specificity that can have significant ecological implications, by altering the competitive strength and hierarchical relationships among interacting herbivore species. However, few studies have examined whether plant populations harbor genetic variation for induction specificity. Using three distinct genotypes of Solidago altissima plants, we examined whether specialist herbivore species Dichomeris leuconotella, Microrhopala vittata, and Trirhabda virgata elicit specific induction responses from plants (specificity of elicitation), and whether induction differentially affects these herbivore species (specificity of effect). Results from bioassays and secondary metabolite analyses suggest that there is specificity of both elicitation and effect in the induced responses: D. leuconotella and M. vittata preferred and performed better on leaves damaged by conspecifics than heterospecifics, and induced qualitatively different secondary metabolite profiles. In contrast, T. virgata equally avoided but physiologically tolerated all types of damage. These patterns of specificity suggest that plant-induced responses mediate asymmetric competitive interactions between herbivore species, which potentially intensifies inter-specific relative to intra-specific competition. Plant genotypes widely differed in overall susceptibility to the herbivores and secondary metabolite production, yet we found no genotype-by-treatment interactions in insect performance, preference and plant secondary metabolite production. This lack of genetic variation for induction specificity suggests that competitive interactions between herbivore species on S. altissima are homogeneous across plant genotypes.