Path analysis of natural selection on plant chemistry: The xylem resin of ponderosa pine

  • Latta R
  • Linhart Y
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We analyzed the pattern of correlations among fitness components, herbivory, and resin characteristics in a natural all-aged stand of ponderosa pine, to infer the strength and mechanism of natural selection on plant chemistry. Male and female cone production were monitored yearly for 15 years, and levels of herbivory for 9 years in 165 trees. Resin flow rate and monoterpene composition were determined for these same trees. Multiple regression of fitness components on resin characteristics showed significant associations consistent with directional selection for increased resin flow rates and increased proportions of alpha- and beta-pinene, myrcene and terpinolene. However, negative correlations among monoterpene fractions of the resin constrained the overall selection. Selective herbivory by aphids approached statistical significance and monoterpenes showed some (non-significant) effect as deterrents against deer browse. Resin characteristics were not correlated with attack by cone insects or porcupines. However, the association between resin characteristics and fitness is significantly different from that predicted by the path coefficients involving herbivores. Therefore the hypothesis that these herbivores mediate selection on the resin is not supported by the observed pattern of correlations among resin characteristics, herbivory, growth and fecundity. In this population, most of the association between resin characteristics and fitness appears to be mediated by some other factor independent of attack by herbivore species present

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  • R G Latta

  • Y B Linhart

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