Latitudinal variation in resistance and tolerance to herbivory in the perennial herb Lythrum salicaria is related to intensity of herbivory and plant phenology

J Evol Biol. 2015 Mar;28(3):576-89. doi: 10.1111/jeb.12589. Epub 2015 Feb 11.


Both the length of the growing season and the intensity of herbivory often vary along climatic gradients, which may result in divergent selection on plant phenology, and on resistance and tolerance to herbivory. In Sweden, the length of the growing season and the number of insect herbivore species feeding on the perennial herb Lythrum salicaria decrease from south to north. Previous common-garden experiments have shown that northern L. salicaria populations develop aboveground shoots earlier in the summer and finish growth before southern populations do. We tested the hypotheses that resistance and tolerance to damage vary with latitude in L. salicaria and are positively related to the intensity of herbivory in natural populations. We quantified resistance and tolerance of populations sampled along a latitudinal gradient by scoring damage from natural herbivores and fitness in a common-garden experiment in the field and by documenting oviposition and feeding preference by specialist leaf beetles in a glasshouse experiment. Plant resistance decreased with latitude of origin, whereas plant tolerance increased. Oviposition and feeding preference in the glasshouse and leaf damage in the common-garden experiment were negatively related to damage in the source populations. The latitudinal variation in resistance was thus consistent with reduced selection from herbivores towards the northern range margin of L. salicaria. Variation in tolerance may be related to differences in the timing of damage in relation to the seasonal pattern of plant growth, as northern genotypes have developed further than southern have when herbivores emerge in early summer.

Keywords: Galerucella calmariensis; Galerucella pusilla; Lythrum salicaria; Nanophyes marmoratus; herbivore removal; latitude; plant resistance; plant tolerance; plant-herbivore interactions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture
  • Animals
  • Coleoptera / physiology
  • Herbivory* / drug effects
  • Insecticides / pharmacology
  • Lythrum / physiology*
  • Oviposition
  • Plant Leaves
  • Sweden
  • Weevils / physiology


  • Insecticides