Leaf Herbivores Decrease Fitness of a Tropical Plant

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Science  02 Nov 1984:
Vol. 226, Issue 4674, pp. 537-539
DOI: 10.1126/science.226.4674.537


Damage by insect herbivores to neighboring individuals of the shrub Piper arieianum in a neotropical wet forest varies greatly. This differential damage has a genetic basis and results in a 2-year decrease in growth, seed production, and seed viability, with larger plants recovering before smaller plants. The results provide evidence that leaf herbivores represent a potentially strong selective force for the evolution of plant defenses.

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