Expression and Costs of Induced Defense Traits in Alliaria petiolata, a Widespread Invasive Plant

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We used jasmonic acid to induce first-year plants of Alliaria petiolata, a European invader that largely escapes herbivory in North America, to examine continental, population, and environmental variation in the expression and costs of induced defense traits. While absolute levels varied among populations, the induction of trypsin inhibitor activity was strong and largely uniform across five native and seven invasive populations. Trichome densities varied across populations, were absent in two of them, and only tended to be inducible by jasmonic acid. Jasmonate induction was substantially costly to leaf growth and dry biomass production, the magnitude of which varied little among populations. Continental origin of the populations explained an insignificant amount of variation in any trait. Trypsin inhibitor activity was strongly inducible across a nutrient gradient, but induction was more costly to leaf growth at low soil nutrient levels. Our results show that A. petiolata displays defense traits that are strongly inducible by jasmonic acid across populations, that jasmonate induction is substantially costly to growth with little variation among populations, and that costs of induction increase with decreased soil nutrient availability. Escaping the need to express induced defense traits and their costs in the face of reduced herbivory in introduced habitats may benefit fitness of invasive plants even in the absence of any evolutionary change in resistance in these plants.



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