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Contrasting herbivory patterns and leaf fluctuating asymmetry in Heliocarpus pallidus between different habitat types within a Mexican tropical dry forest

  • Pablo Cuevas-Reyes (a1) (a2), Ken Oyama (a3), Antonio González-Rodríguez (a3), G. Wilson Fernandes (a2) and Luis Mendoza-Cuenca (a4)...


Leaf fluctuating asymmetry (FA) is considered an important indicator of environmentally induced stress in plants, but the relationship between herbivory and FA levels is not clear. In this study we compared leaf size and shape, leaf area consumed by herbivorous insects, and FA levels between individuals of Heliocarpus pallidus (Tiliaceae) from two adjacent and contrasting habitat types (deciduous and riparian) in the Chamela–Cuixmala tropical dry-forest biosphere reserve. Ten individuals of H. pallidus were collected in each habitat type. Leaf shape was assessed using geometric morphometric techniques. Results indicated statistically significant differences in leaf shape between individuals from the two habitat types. In individuals from the riparian habitat leaf area (mean = 42.3 ± 1.2 cm2), herbivory levels (mean = 25.5% ± 1.8%) and FA levels (mean = 0.38 ± 0.04 cm) were significantly higher than in individuals from the deciduous habitat (17.2 ± 3.5 cm2; 9.6% ± 1.0% and 0.18 ± 0.04 cm, respectively). Within habitats, significant correlations were found between total leaf area and percentage leaf area removed by insects (R2 = 0.92 in riparian habitats, R2 = 0.9 in deciduous habitats), and between percentage leaf area removed and FA (R2 = 0.70 in riparian habitats, R2 = 0.79 in deciduous habitats). As has been suggested for other plant species, it is possible that the more favourable conditions in the riparian habitat enhance leaf growth, resulting in higher FA. Also, individuals in this habitat might be characterized by lower chemical defence and/or higher nutritional quality, which would explain the higher herbivory levels.


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