Interactions between insect herbivores and plant mating systems.
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Self-pollination is common in plants, and limited seed and pollen dispersal can create localized inbreeding even within outcrossing plants. Consequently, insects regularly encounter inbred plants in nature. Because inbreeding results in elevated homozygosity, greater expression of recessive alleles, and subsequent phenotypic changes in inbred plants, inbreeding may alter plant-insect interactions. Recent research has found that plant inbreeding alters resistance and tolerance to herbivores, alters the attraction and susceptibility of plants to insects that vector plant pathogens, and alters visitation rates of insect pollinators. These results suggest that interactions with insects can increase or decrease inbreeding depression (the loss of fitness due to self-fertilization) and subsequently alter the evolution of selfing within plant populations. Future work needs to focus on the mechanisms underlying genetic variation in the effects of inbreeding on plant-insect interactions and the consequences of altered plant-insect interactions on the evolution of plant defense and plant mating systems.