Plants have two principal defense mechanisms to decrease fitness losses to herbivory: tolerance, the ability to compensate fitness after damage, and resistance, the ability to avoid damage. Variation in intensity of herbivory among populations should result in variation in plant defense levels if tolerance and resistance are associated with costs. Yet little is known about how levels of tolerance are related to resistance and attack intensity in the field, and about the costs of tolerance. In this study, we used information about tolerance and resistance against larval herbivory by the butterfly Anthocharis cardamines under controlled conditions together with information about damage in the field for a large set of populations of the perennial plant Cardamine pratensis. Plant tolerance was estimated in a common garden experiment where plants were subjected to a combination of larval herbivory and clipping. We found no evidence of that the proportion of damage that was caused by larval feeding vs. clipping influenced plant responses. Damage treatments had a negative effect on the three measured fitness components and also resulted in an earlier flowering in the year after the attack. Tolerance was related to attack intensity in the population of origin, i.e. plants from populations with higher attack intensity were more likely to flower in the year following damage. However, we found no evidence of a relationship between tolerance and resistance. These results indicate that herbivory drives the evolution for increased tolerance, and that changes in tolerance are not linked to changes in resistance. We suggest that the simultaneous study of tolerance, attack intensity in the field and resistance constitutes a powerful tool to understand how plant strategies to avoid negative effects of herbivore damage evolve. © 2014 König et al.
König, M. A. E., Lehtilä, K., Wiklund, C., & Ehrlén, J. (2014). Among-population variation in tolerance to larval herbivory by Anthocharis cardamines in the polyploid herb cardamine pratensis. PLoS ONE, 9(6). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0099333