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Intraspecific interaction of host plants leads to concentrated distribution of a specialist herbivore through metabolic alterations in the leaves

Citation

Ohsaki, Haruna; Miyagi, Atsuko; Kawai-Yamada, Maki; Yamawo, Akira (2021), Intraspecific interaction of host plants leads to concentrated distribution of a specialist herbivore through metabolic alterations in the leaves, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.f1vhhmgz8

Abstract

1. Recent studies suggest that changes in leaf traits due to interactions between plants affect resource utilisation by and the distribution of herbivores. However, this has not yet been confirmed experimentally. Here, we investigated the effects of phenotypic plasticity in leaf traits of Rumex obtusifolius (host plant) in response to intra- and interspecific interaction on the distribution of two leaf beetles, Gastrophysa atrocyanea (specialist herbivore) and Galerucella grisescens (generalist herbivore).

2. We investigated the local population density of R. obtusifolius plants and the presence of leaf beetles on the plants at five study sites. Leaf chemicals (condensed tannins and total phenolics) were compared between aggregated and solitary R. obtusifolius plants. To clarify the effects of the interaction environment of R. obtusifolius plants on their leaf traits and on resource utilisation by the leaf beetles, we compared leaf chemicals and preferences of adult leaf beetles among treatments where R. obtusifolius experienced intraspecific interaction, interspecific interaction, or no interaction in cultivation experiments. Finally, we evaluated the independent and combined effects of patch size and intraspecific interaction on leaf beetle distribution in mesocosm experiments.

3. In the field, the presence of the specialist leaf beetle G. atrocyanea was positively correlated with the local population density (rosette overlap ratio) of R. obtusifolius plants; however, there was no correlation in the case of the generalist leaf beetle G. grisescens. In the cultivation experiments, plants in the intraspecific interaction treatment increased their leaf contents of condensed tannins and total phenolics, and G. atrocyanea consumed more of these leaves than leaves in other treatments. Similar results were observed in the field. In the mesocosm experiments, larger numbers of G. atrocyanea were distributed on R. obtusifolius plants exposed to below-ground intraspecific interaction than on plants not exposed to intraspecific interaction.

4. Our results provide experimental evidence that leaf-trait changes in response to intraspecific interaction between host plants influence specialist herbivore distribution. This highlights the need to integrate plant–plant interactions into our understanding of plant–animal interactions.