Resistance and Tolerance to Root Herbivory in Maize Were Mediated by Domestication, Spread, and Breeding.
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Plants may defend against herbivory and disease through various means. Plant defensive strategies against herbivores include resistance and tolerance, which may have metabolic costs that affect plant growth and reproduction. Thus, expression of these strategies may be mediated by a variety of factors, such as resource availability, herbivory pressure, and plant genetic variation, among others. Additionally, artificial selection by farmers and systematic breeding by scientists may mediate the expression of resistance and tolerance in crop plants. In this study, we tested whether maize defense against Western corn rootworm (WCR) was mediated by the crop's domestication, spread, and modern breeding. We expected to find a trend of decreasing resistance to WCR with maize domestication, spread, and breeding, and a trend of increasing tolerance with decreasing resistance. To test our expectations, we compared resistance and tolerance among four Zea plants spanning those processes: Balsas teosinte, Mexican landrace maize, US landrace maize, and US inbred maize. We measured the performance of WCR larvae as a proxy for plant resistance, and plant growth as affected by WCR feeding as a proxy for plant tolerance. Our results showed that domestication and spread decreased maize resistance to WCR, as expected, whereas breeding increased maize resistance to WCR, contrary to expected. Our results also showed that maize resistance and tolerance to WCR are negatively correlated, as expected. We discussed our findings in relation to ecological-evolutionary hypotheses seeking to explain defense strategy evolution in the contexts of plant resistance-productivity trade-offs, plant tolerance-resistance trade-offs, and varying resource availability vis--vis plant physiological stress and herbivory pressure. Finally, we suggested that defense strategy evolution in maize, from domestication to the present, is predicted by those ecological-evolutionary hypotheses.