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Ecology. 2010 Apr;91(4):937-43.

Herbivores affect natural selection for floral-sex ratio in a field population of horsenettle, Solanum carolinense.

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Department of Biology, Box 90338, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina 27708, USA.


Although aspects of a plant's breeding system are generally believed to have evolved in response to selection for effective pollination, herbivores may also play a selective role. Here we report on a field experiment involving 960 transplanted ramets of the andromonoecious herb Solanum carolinense in which the pattern of natural selection for an important breeding-system trait was influenced by naturally occurring herbivores. As the level of flower and fruit herbivory increased, the pattern of selection on floral-sex ratio went from stabilizing (with an optimum of 29% male flowers), to directional toward a lower proportion of males, with the optimum bottoming at 0% male. This pattern of selection likely helped generate the broad-sense genetic correlation (r = 0.42) between floral-sex ratio and resistance to herbivory. These results contribute to the growing awareness that herbivores can be important influences not only on plant resistance traits, but also on the evolution of their hosts' breeding system.

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