Escalation of Plant Defense: Do Latex and Resin Canals Spur Plant Diversification?

  • Farrell B
  • Dussourd D
  • Mitter C
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hrlich and Raven's postulate that rapid diversification follows innovation in plant defense has often been invoked a posteriori for plant lineages of unusual diversity and chemical distinctiveness. The postulate can be more rigorously tested by defining a novel class of defense using chemical and/or anatomical criteria, independent of taxonomic lineage. If multiple plant lineages have evolved the new defense type, then according to the postulate they should be consistently more diverse than their sister groups (of equal age, by definition) when the latter retain the primitive defensive repertoire. Secretory canals are an independently defined, repeat- edly evolved feature that functions to protect plants from herbivores and pathogens. The canals might therefore be expected to allow plant radiation in an adaptive zone of reduced herbivory and disease. We have quantified the evidence for this hypothesis by comparing the diversities of lineages that have independently evolved canal systems with their sister groups for as many plant lineages as current taxonomic evidence allows. A sign test showed that canal-bearing lineages have consistently higher diversities than their sister groups (P = .0021). Explanations for this result, other than selective advantage conferred by secretory canals, are examined and provisionally rejected

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  • Brian D. Farrell

  • David E. Dussourd

  • Charles Mitter

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