The impact of herbivore-plant coevolution on plant community structure

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126 Scopus citations


Coevolutionary theory proposes that the diversity of chemical structures found in plants is, in large part, the result of selection by herbivores. Because herbivores often feed on chemically similar plants, they should impose selective pressures on plants to diverge chemically or bias community assembly toward chemical divergence. Using a coevolved interaction between a group of chrysomelid beetles and their host plants, I tested whether coexisting plants of the Mexican tropical dry forest tend to be chemically more dissimilar than random. Results show that some of the communities are chemically overdispersed and that overdispersion is related to the tightness of the interaction between plants and herbivores and the spatial scale at which communities are measured. As coevolutionary specialization increases and spatial scale decreases, communities tend to be more chemically dissimilar. At fairly local scales and where herbivores have tight, one-to-one interactions with plants, communities have a strong pattern of chemical disparity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7483-7488
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number18
StatePublished - May 1 2007


  • Herbivore specialization
  • Insect-herbivore interaction
  • Plant chemical diversity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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