Coevolutionary constraints? The environment alters tripartite interaction traits in a Legume

Katy D. Heath, Katie E. McGhee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Third party species, which interact with one or both partners of a pairwise species interaction, can shift the ecological costs and the evolutionary trajectory of the focal interaction. Shared genes that mediate a host's interactions with multiple partners have the potential to generate evolutionary constraints, making multi-player interactions critical to our understanding of the evolution of key interaction traits. Using a field quantitative genetics approach, we studied phenotypic and genetic correlations among legume traits for rhizobium and herbivore interactions in two light environments. Shifts in plant biomass allocation mediated negative phenotypic correlations between symbiotic nodule number and herbivory in the field, whereas positive genetic covariances suggested shared genetic pathways between nodulation and herbivory response. Trait variance-covariance (G) matrices were not equal in sun and shade, but nevertheless responses to independent and correlated selection are expected to be similar in both environments. Interactions between plants and aboveground antagonists might alter the evolutionary potential of traits mediating belowground mutualisms (and vice versa). Thus our understanding of legume-rhizobium genetics and coevolution may be incomplete without a grasp of how these networks overlap with other plant interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere41567
JournalPloS one
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 30 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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