Identifying the factors governing the maintenance of genetic variation is a central challenge in evolutionary biology. New genomic data, methods and conceptual advances provide increasing evidence that balancing selection, mediated by antagonistic species interactions, maintains genome-wide functionally important genetic variation within species and natural populations. Because diverse interactions between plants and herbivorous insects dominate terrestrial communities, they provide excellent systems to address this hypothesis. Population genomic studies of Arabidopsis thaliana and its relatives suggest spatial variation in herbivory maintains adaptive genetic variation controlling defense phenotypes, both within and among populations. Conversely, inter-species variation in plant defenses promotes adaptive genetic variation in herbivores. Emerging genomic model herbivores of Arabidopsis could illuminate how genetic variation in herbivores and plants interact simultaneously.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Plant Science