Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Specificity of herbivore-induced responses in an invasive species, Alternanthera philoxeroides (alligator weed).

Abstract

Herbivory-induced responses in plants can both negatively affect subsequently colonizing herbivores and mitigate the effect of herbivory on the host. However, it is still less known whether plants exhibit specific responses to specialist and generalist herbivores in non-secondary metabolite traits and how specificity to specialists and generalists differs between invasive and native plant populations. We exposed an invasive plant, Alternanthera philoxeroides, to Agasicles hygrophila (Coleoptera, Chrysomelidae; specialist), Spodoptera litura (Lepidoptera, Noctuidae; generalist), manual clipping, or application of exogenous jasmonic acid and examined both the specificity of elicitation in traits of fitness (e.g., aboveground biomass), morphology (e.g., root:shoot ratio), and chemistry (e.g., C/N ratio and lignin), and specificity of effect on the subsequent performance of A. hygrophila and S. litura. Then, we assessed variation of the specificity between invasive and native populations (USA and Argentina, respectively). The results showed S. litura induced higher branching intensity and specific leaf area but lower C/N ratio than A. hygrophila, whereas A. hygrophila induced higher trichome density than S. litura. The negative effect of induction on subsequent larval growth was greater for S. litura than for A. hygrophila. Invasive populations had a weaker response to S. litura than to A. hygrophila in triterpenoid saponins and C/N ratio, while native populations responded similarly to these two herbivores. The specific effect on the two herbivores feeding on induced plants did not vary between invasive and native populations. Overall, we demonstrate specificity of elicitation to specialist and generalist herbivores in non-secondary metabolite traits, and that the generalist is more susceptible to induction than the specialist. Furthermore, chemical responses specific to specialist and generalist herbivores only exist in the invasive populations, consistent with an evolutionary change in specificity in the invasive populations.