Several hypotheses, mainly Optimal Defense (OD), Carbon: Nutrient Balance (CNB), Growth Rate (GR), and Growth-Differentiation Balance (GDB), have individually served as frameworks for investigating the patterns of plant defense against herbivores, in particular the pattern of constitutive defense. The predictions and tests of these hypotheses have been problematic for a variety of reasons and have led to considerable confusion about the state of the "theory of plant defense." The primary contribution of the OD hypothesis is that it has served as the main framework for investigation of genotypic expression of plant defense, with the emphasis on allocation cost of defense. The primary contribution of the CNB hypothesis is that it has served as the main framework for investigation of how resources affect phenotypic expression of plant defense, often with studies concerned about allocation cost of defense. The primary contribution of the GR hypothesis is that it explains how intrinsic growth rate of plants shaped evolutionarily by resource availability affects defensive patterns. The primary contribution of the expanded GDB hypothesis is that it recognizes the constant physiological tradeoff between growth and differentiation at the cellular and tissue levels relative to the selective pressures of resource availability, including explicitly taking into account plant tolerance of damage by enemies. A clearer understanding of these hypotheses and what we have learned from investigations that use them can facilitate development of well-designed experiments that address the gaps in our knowledge of plant defense.
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