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Ecology. 2006 Jan;87(1):103-12.

Temporal dynamics of antagonism and mutualism in a geographically variable plant-insect interaction.

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Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Santa Cruz 95064, USA.


Variation among sites and years in the local ecological outcome of interspecific interactions can generate a geographic mosaic of coevolution, as indicated by recent mathematical models. We evaluated whether local temporal dynamics of ecological outcome in the interaction between the moth Greya politella (Prodoxidae) and its host plant Lithophragma parviflorum (Saxifragaceae) are likely to mitigate or magnify geographic differences in ecological outcome found in earlier studies. The moths are highly host-specific pollinating floral parasites, and the mutualism can be swamped in some populations by the presence of effective co-pollinators. Hence, differing community contexts can shift the outcome of the interaction from mutualism to commensalism or antagonism. During each of four years, we evaluated the effect of Greya oviposition on seed development through a paired design that controlled for plant genotype and microenvironment. At Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge in Washington State, the interaction was significantly mutualistic in all four years. Mutualism in this population was indicated by a higher probability of development of capsules visited by ovipositing Greya than capsules not visited by Greya on the same plant. At Rapid River, Idaho, the interaction was commensalistic in three years and antagonistic in one year. Antagonism in this population was indicated by selective withering of capsules containing Greya eggs. Overall, the results suggest stable geographic differences in the range of ecological outcomes in this plant-insect interaction under different community contexts.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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