J Plant Ecol ›› 2019, Vol. 12 ›› Issue (4): 662-672.DOI: 10.1093/jpe/rtz004

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Effects of physiological integration on defense strategies against herbivory by the clonal plant Alternanthera philoxeroides

Rubén Portela1,2, Bi-Cheng Dong2,*, , Fei-Hai Yu2,3, Rodolfo Barreiro1 and Sergio R. Roiloa1   

  1. 1 BioCost Group, Biology Department, Universidade da Coruña, A Coruña 15071, Spain
    2 School of Nature Conservation, Beijing Forestry University, Beijing 100083, China
    3 Institute of Wetland Ecology & Clone Ecology/Zhejiang Provincial Key Laboratory of Plant Evolutionary Ecology and Conservation, Taizhou University, Taizhou 318000, China
    *Correspondence address. School of Nature Conservation, Beijing Forestry University, Beijing 100083, China. Tel: +86 10 62336683; Fax: +86 10 62336683; E-mail: bcdong@bjfu.edu.cn
  • Received:2018-06-17 Revised:2018-12-21 Accepted:2019-01-15 Online:2019-01-16 Published:2019-08-01



The plant–herbivore interaction is one of the most fundamental interactions in nature. Plants are sessile organisms, and consequently rely on particular strategies to avoid or reduce the negative impact of herbivory. Here, we aimed to determine the defense strategies against insect herbivores in the creeping invasive plant Alternanthera philoxeroides.


We tested the defense response of A. philoxeroides to herbivory by a leaf-feeding specialist insect Agasicles hygrophila and a polyphagous sap-feeding insect Planococcus minor. We also tested the mechanisms triggering defense responses of A. philoxeroides by including treatments of artificial leaf removal and jasmonic acid application. Furthermore, we examined the effect of physiological integration on these defense strategies.

Important Findings

The combination of artificial leaf removal and jasmonic acid application produced a similar effect to that of leaf-feeding by the real herbivore. Physiological integration influenced the defense strategies of A. philoxeroides against herbivores, and increased biomass allocation to aboveground parts in its apical ramets damaged by real herbivores. Our study highlights the importance of physiological integration and modular plasticity for understanding the consequences of herbivory in clonal plants.

Key words: Agasicles hygrophila, alligator weed, clonal integration, herbivory, Planococcus minor