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Plant stages with biotic, indirect defences are more palatable and suffer less herbivory than their undefended counterparts

Llandres Lopez A., Rodríguez-Gironés M.A., Dirzo R.. 2010. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 101 (3) : p. 536-543.

Plants have evolved several anti-herbivory strategies, including direct defences, such as mechanical and chemical defences, and indirect or biotic defences, such as the recruitment of defending animals. We examined whether the investment plants make in direct defences differs between those which do and do not invest in biotic defences, by comparing standing herbivory and palatability of congeneric species with and without indirect defences at two ontogenetic stages: before and after the onset of indirect defences. We used Cordia alliodora and Croton suberosus as the species with indirect defences and Cordia elaeagnoides and Croton pseudoniveus as the species without indirect defences. We predicted that herbivores would prefer to eat species and stages with indirect defences to those without them. As predicted, we found that herbivores preferred species and ontogenetic stages with indirect defences in all cases. Overall, however, natural levels of herbivory were lower in species with indirect defences. We conclude that indirect defences offer effective protection against herbivores and posit that their recruitment allows plants to reduce investment in other defence mechanisms. Our results support the notion that plants trade-off between direct and indirect defensive strategies. (Résumé d'auteur)

Thématique : Ecologie végétale; Protection des végétaux : considérations générales

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