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Web Ecology An open-access peer-reviewed journal
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Volume 18, issue 1 | Copyright
Web Ecol., 18, 41-46, 2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Standard article 16 Mar 2018

Standard article | 16 Mar 2018

Cumulative effects of transgenerational induction on plant palatability to generalist and specialist herbivores

Isabelle P. Neylan1,2, Rodolfo Dirzo1, and Mar Sobral1,3,4 Isabelle P. Neylan et al.
  • 1Department of Biology, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA
  • 2Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, USA
  • 3CEFE, University Paul Valéry Montpellier 3, University Montpellier, EPHE, CNRS, IRD, Montpellier, France
  • 4Departmento de Zooloxía Xenética e Antropoloxía Física, Universidade de Santiago de Compostela, Santiago de Compostela, La Coruña, Spain

Abstract. Herbivore damage can induce anti-herbivore traits in plants. However, there is little data regarding how these induced traits affect a plant's palatability (an important factor in determining the likelihood and magnitude of herbivore damage) across multiple generations post-induction, or whether the effect of transgenerational induction differs between generalist and specialist herbivores. Here we used palatability as a measure of the effects of transgenerational defensive induction in wild radish plants. We conducted a greenhouse experiment to determine whether generalist (slugs) and specialist (caterpillars of the white cabbage butterfly) herbivores' preference for wild radish differed depending on the number of previous generations that experienced herbivory. We found lowered palatability in plants with two or three inductions in their past in the case of generalist slugs, while palatability to a specialist herbivore was not affected by transgenerational induction. We conclude that the history of herbivory experienced by a plant's ancestors over multiple generations may play an important role in its ability to defend itself against generalist herbivores, but not against the specialists with whom they have co-evolved. Our findings suggest that the effects that multiple past inductions may have on palatability down the family line can be expected to have ecological and evolutionary implications.

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We conducted a greenhouse experiment with wild radish plants and found a multigenerational effect of herbivore induction on palatability for generalist slugs but not specialist caterpillars, and that the order of these inductions seemed to be important. These results are potentially meaningful for plant–herbivore ecology and evolution because a plant's ability to defend itself may be influenced by multiple previous generations and this may depend on the type of herbivore.
We conducted a greenhouse experiment with wild radish plants and found a multigenerational...