Plant traits that enhance the attraction of the natural enemies of their herbivores have been postulated to function as an 'indirect defence'. An important underlying assumption is that this enhanced attraction results in increased plant fitness due to reduced herbivory. This assumption has been rarely tested. We investigated whether there are fitness consequences for the charlock mustard Sinapis arvensis, a short-lived outcrossing annual weedy plant, when exposed to groups of large cabbage white (Pieris brassicae) caterpillars parasitized by either one of two wasp species, Hyposoter ebeninus and Cotesia glomerata, that allow the host to grow during parasitism. Hyposoter ebeninus is solitary and greatly reduces host growth compared with healthy caterpillars, whereas C. glomerata is gregarious and allows the host to grow approximately as large as unparasitized caterpillars. Both healthy and parasitized P. brassicae caterpillars initially feed on the foliage, but later stages preferentially consume the flowers. In a garden experiment, plants damaged by parasitized caterpillars produced more seeds than conspecific plants damaged by unparasitized caterpillars. Reproductive potential (germination success multiplied by total seed number) was similar for plants that were not exposed to herbivory and those that were damaged by parasitized caterpillars and lower for plants that were damaged by healthy unparasitized caterpillars. However, these quantitative seed traits negatively correlated with the qualitative seed traits, individual seed size and germination success, suggesting a trade-off between these two types of traits. We show that parasitism of insect herbivores that feed on reproductive plant tissues may have positive fitness consequences for S. arvensis. The extent to which plant fitness may benefit depends on parasitoid lifestyle (solitary or gregarious), which is correlated with the amount of damage inflicted on these tissues by the parasitized host
|Publication status||Published - 2015|
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Fitness consequences of indirect plant defence in the annual weed, Sinapis arvensis
Gols, R. (Creator), Wagenaar, R. (Creator), Poelman, E. (Creator), Kruidhof, M. (Creator), van Loon, J. (Creator) & Harvey, J. A. (Creator), Wageningen UR, 2015