Background and Aims
Inbreeding via self-fertilization may have negative effects on plant fitness (i.e. inbreeding depression). Outbreeding, or cross-fertilization between genetically dissimilar parental plants, may also disrupt local adaptation or allelic co-adaptation in the offspring and again lead to reduced plant fitness (i.e. outbreeding depression). Inbreeding and outbreeding may also increase plant vulnerability to natural enemies by altering plant quality or defence. The effects of inbreeding and outbreeding on plant size and response to herbivory in the perennial herb, Vincetoxicum hirundinaria, were investigated.
Greenhouse experiments were conducted using inbred and outbred (within- and between-population) offspring of 20 maternal plants from four different populations, quantifying plant germination, size, resistance against the specialist folivore, Abrostola asclepiadis, and tolerance of simulated defoliation.
Selfed plants were smaller and more susceptible to damage by A. asclepiadis than outcrossed plants. However, herbivore biomass on selfed and outcrossed plants did not differ. The effects of inbreeding on plant performance and resistance did not differ among plant populations or families, and no inbreeding depression at all was found in tolerance of defoliation. Between-population outcrossing had no effect on plant performance or resistance against A. asclepiadis, indicating a lack of outbreeding depression.
Since inbreeding depression negatively affects plant size and herbivore resistance, inbreeding may modify the evolution of the interaction between V. hirundinaria and its specialist folivore. The results further suggest that herbivory may contribute to the maintenance of a mixed mating system of the host plants by selecting for outcrossing and reduced susceptibility to herbivore attack, and thus add to the growing body of evidence on the effects of inbreeding on the mating system evolution of the host plants and the dynamics of plant–herbivore interactions.