Effects of inbreeding in Mimulus guttatus on tolerance to herbivory in natural environments
Inbreeding, which is common in plants, may increase the vulnerability of. populations to natural enemies. Similarly, natural enemies may increase the expression of inbreeding depression in their hosts, resulting in altered selection on host mating-system evolution. To examine effects of inbreeding on tolerance to herbivory, we transplanted experimentally self- and cross-fertilized plants into four field populations of Mimulus guttatus and applied single Philaenus spumarius (spittlebug) nymphs to half. At the end of the growing season, we scored plants for five fitness components (reproductive effort, biomass, survival, probability of producing flowers or buds, and probability of bolting). Inbreeding reduced population-level tolerance to spittlebug herbivory with respect to plant aboveground biomass. Inbreeding effects on tolerance varied significantly among plant families for three fitness traits, indicating the opportunity for selection by herbivores to improve tolerance in in breeding populations. These results also indicate that herbivores can alter inbreeding depression in plants. Our results mirror earlier greenhouse studies of inbreeding effects on plant-herbivore interactions, and demonstrate that these effects can be manifested in natural settings as well. This study indicates that inbreeding in natural populations can affect fitness not only directly, but also indirectly through altered interactions with natural enemies.