Evolutionary Ecology

, Volume 25, Issue 4, pp 763–775 | Cite as

Costs of defense: correlated responses to divergent selection for foliar glucosinolate content in Brassica rapa

Original Paper


The evolutionary response of plant populations to herbivore imposed selection for defense may theoretically be constrained by the costs of defense, yet few studies convincingly demonstrate such costs. We investigated possible constraints on the evolution of defense in rapid cycling Brassica rapa by divergently selecting lines for investment in foliar glucosinolate content, a chemical defense in this species. Costs would then result in a significant correlated response to artificially imposed selection in the direction opposite to the direct response of foliar glucosinolate production. Correlated responses of date of first flowering, total flower number, number of seeds per fruit, and mean seed mass were examined. After three generations of selection, there was a significant direct response in glucosinolate content of the leaves of B. rapa. Furthermore, we found significant correlated responses in both total flower production and number of seeds produced per fruit, but not date of first flowering or mean seed mass. Lines selected for high glucosinolates produced fewer flowers and seeds per fruit compared to those selected for low glucosinolates while lines selected for low glucosinolates showed the opposite response. Thus, costs of defense were demonstrated and may constrain the evolution of foliar glucosinolate production in this plant species.


Cost of defense Brassica rapa Glucosinolates Fitness 



We thank B. Reuter, R. Reese, J. Kramer, and R. Winter for lab and technical support, and S. Srinivasin of Malinkrodt Specialty Chemicals for HPLC grade water. C. Hochwender, J. Le Corff, J. Lill, J. Morisaki, R. Medina, and E. Wold for comments on the manuscript, and J. Cheverud and V. Sork for their advice. This work was partially supported by an NSF predoctoral fellowship, Sigma Xi, Garden Clubs of Missouri Inc., National Federation of State Garden Clubs, and a National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant DEB#9310992 to K.A.S. This work was conducted as partial fullfilment for a Ph.D. at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Liberal StudiesBeacon CollegeLeesburgUSA
  2. 2.Department of BiologyUniversity of South CarolinaColumbiaUSA
  3. 3.Department of BiologyUniversity of Missouri-St. LouisSt. LouisUSA

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