Phylogenetic and experimental tests of interactions among mutualistic plant defense traits in <i>Viburnum</i> (Adoxaceae)

TitlePhylogenetic and experimental tests of interactions among mutualistic plant defense traits in Viburnum (Adoxaceae)
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsWeber MG, Clement WL, Donoghue MJ, Agrawal AA
JournalThe American Naturalist
Date Published2012 Oct

Plant traits that mediate mutualistic interactions are widespread, yet few studies have linked their macroevolutionary patterns with the ecological interactions they mediate. Here we merged phylogenetic and experimental approaches to investigate the evolution of two common mutualistic plant traits, extrafloral nectaries (EFNs) and leaf domatia. By using the flowering plant clade Viburnum, we tested whether macroevolutionary patterns support adaptive hypotheses and conducted field surveys and manipulative experiments to examine whether ecological interactions are concordant with evolutionary predictions. Phylogenetic reconstructions suggested that EFN-bearing species are monophyletic, whereas the evolution of domatia correlated with leaf production strategy (deciduous or evergreen) and climate. Domatia were also more common in the EFN clade, suggesting that the two traits may jointly mediate ecological interactions. This result was further investigated in a common-garden survey, where plants with domatia and EFNs on the leaf blade had more mutualistic mites than plants with other trait combinations, and in manipulative field experiments, where the traits additively increased mutualist abundance. Taken together, our results suggest that mutualistic traits in Viburnum are not ecologically independent, as they work in concert to attract and retain mutualists, and their long-term evolution may be influenced by complex interactions among multiple traits, mutualists, and geography.

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