Natural selection on plant resistance to herbivores in the native and introduced range

Pedro L. Valverde, Juan Arroyo, Juan Núñez-Farfán, Guillermo Castillo, Adriana Calahorra, Rocío Pérez-Barrales, Rosalinda Tapia-López

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When plants are introduced into new regions, the absence of their co-evolved natural enemies can result in lower levels of attack. As a consequence of this reduction in enemy pressure, plant performance may increase and selection for resistance to enemies may decrease. In the present study, we compared leaf damage, plant size and leaf trichome density, as well as the direction and magnitude of selection on resistance and plant size between non-native (Spain) and native (Mexico) populations of Datura stramonium. This species was introduced to Spain about five centuries ago and constitutes an ideal system to test four predictions of the enemy release hypothesis. Compared with native populations, we expected Spanish populations of D. stramonium to have (i) lower levels of foliar damage; (ii) larger plant size; (iii) lower leaf trichome density that is unrelated to foliar damage by herbivores; and (iv) weak or no selection on resistance to herbivores but strong selection on plant size. Our results showed that, on average, plants from non-native populations were significantly less damaged by herbivores, were less pubescent and were larger than those from native populations. We also detected different selection regimes on resistance and plant size between the non-native and native ranges. Positive selection on plant size was detected in both ranges (though it was higher in the non-native area), but consistent positive selection on relative resistance was detected only in the native range. Overall, we suggest that changes in selection pressure on resistance and plant size in D. stramonium in Spain are a consequence of ‘release from natural enemies’.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberplv090
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jul 2015


  • Datura stramonium
  • enemy release hypothesis (ERH)
  • invasive species
  • natural selection
  • plant defence
  • resistance to herbivores
  • Spain
  • specialist and generalist herbivores


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