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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2004

An interaction between a specialized seed predator moth and its dioecious host plant shifting from parasitism to mutualism

Westerbergh, A


Seed predator/pollinator and host plant interactions, which may be considered as antagonistic, have the potential to provide good model systems for the study of the early stages of evolution towards mutualism. I describe a relationship between a seed predator, the geometrid moth Perizoma affinitatum, and the dioecious plant Silene dioica. The moth is an obligate seed predator on its host plant. The searching and ovipositing behaviour of the female moths, number of eggs deposited per flower, the pollinating ability of the moths and the seed consumption by the larvae are described as different parameters and studied in two Finnish coastal populations. A high pollinating ability and limited seed consumption by the predator was found and discussed in relation to fitness models of P. affinitatum and S. dioica. In a mutualistic relationship there must be a balance between the costs and benefits so that the seed production by the moths is larger than the seed consumption by the larvae, given a net seed output larger than zero. The data of the parameters included in a seed production/consumption model give a positive seed output when the proportion of S. dioica flowers pollinated by other non-predating insects is less than 60%. Accordingly, even if P. affinitatum would become the exclusive pollinator it would not endanger the survival of the host plant and both partners would benefit from this interaction. Limited seed consumption, high pollinating ability and host specificity as seen in the P. affinitatum and S. dioica interaction are considered to have been important pre-existing qualities in the evolution of the obligate mutualisms between yucca and yucca moths and fig and fig wasps. In isolated serpentine populations where the gene flow is restricted and co-pollinators are rare the interaction between P. affinitatum and S. dioica has the potential to shift from parasitism to mutualism

Published in

2004, Volume: 105, number: 3, pages: 564-574

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use

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