Herbivory-induced stress: Leaf developmental instability is caused by herbivore damage in early stages of leaf development

Estevão Alves-Silva, Kleber Del-Claro
2016 Ecological Indicators  
Herbivory is a major source of plant stress and its effects can be severe, decreasing plant fitness, or subtle, affecting the development of leaves by influencing the normal pattern of growth and expansion of leaf blades. Fluctuating asymmetry (FA) analysis is recognized as a measure of plant stress, and can be used to evaluate subtle effects of herbivory on the imperfect growth of bilaterally symmetrical traits, such as leaves. One general issue is that authors usually consider FA as an
more » ... or of stress, which can attract herbivores (plant stress hypothesis), and studies showing that herbivores themselves affect leaf symmetry (herbivory-induced stress hypothesis) are scarce, with mixed results. Here, we investigated the relationship between herbivory by thrips and leaf FA in Banisteriopsis malifolia and Heteropterys escallonifolia (Malpighiaceae). Pseudophilothrips obscuricornis is a free-living, non-pest, sucking species that feeds mainly on leaf buds. We hypothesized that herbivory by thrips in the early stages of leaf development would provoke increased FA levels in mature leaves. The results showed that thrips herbivory rate was low, affecting barely more than 1% of the leaf blade. Nonetheless, thrips-attacked leaves of B. malifolia and H. escallonifolia presented increases of 15 and 27% in leaf asymmetry, respectively, compared to uninjured leaves, corroborating the herbivory-induced stress hypothesis. Since herbivory by thrips in leaf buds was related to significant increases in the stress of mature leaves, we assume that under these circumstances, FA can be used as a biomarker for plant stress following herbivory damage. To be useful as a biomarker of stress, FA in plants must be investigated with caution, taking into account the natural history of the herbivore species and timing of leaf damage.
doi:10.1016/j.ecolind.2015.09.036 fatcat:f376oohscrgelgkzn2q7v27ely